Lawmakers drop political football for football

Sen. Ben Sasse, right, showed NU football coach Mike Riley a diagram of the Huskers’ 1982 “bounce pass” against Oklahoma. “You need to run that in the first game, please, Coach,” Sasse said.

WASHINGTON — Husker football coach Mike Riley told a group of Nebraskans on Wednesday that he’s energized to be molding a new football team and impressed with the warm welcome he’s received.

“I’ve coached in just about every league that’s out there except arena football,” Riley said. “And I hope I never hit that one. Not that I don’t like the game. I just like where I’m at.”

The new coach flew out to Washington to stop by the weekly Nebraska Breakfast, where Nebraskans visiting the nation’s capital have the chance to hear from the state’s congressional delegation.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., the host of this year’s breakfasts, invited Riley. The coach chatted with the lawmakers and their constituents. He talked about meeting his new players and establishing a recruiting philosophy.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., pulled out her smartphone.

“I want a selfie,” she said. “If I can figure out how to do it.”

She snapped a blurry pic with the coach.

"Instagram," she said.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said his real dream job is Nebraska offensive coordinator. He recalled being at Nebraska’s 1982 contest with Oklahoma that featured the famous “bounce pass” — a long lateral that quarterback Turner Gill bounced off the turf to receiver Irving Fryar, who caught it, and as the Sooner defense relaxed momentarily, threw downfield to tight end Mitch Krenk.

Sasse displayed a poster-sized diagram of the play and ran through how it worked. He also noted that the Huskers went on to win 28-24.

“You need to run that in the first game, please, Coach,” Sasse said.

In a brief interview with The World-Herald, Riley said the trip was just to attend the breakfast — he didn’t have any plans for sightseeing or recruiting.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of potential in the Washington area. He said there’s a coach assigned to recruit in the area and noted that wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El hails from Alexandria, Virginia, just outside D.C.

“He’s a good young player in our program,” Riley said.

Riley also didn’t plan to meet with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, an avid Husker fan, on this trip. But he said he recently got an e-mail from Thomas and met him at an earlier recruiting dinner.

“He was fun to talk to that night at the recruiting dinner and very knowledgeable about our program,” he said.

During Wednesday’s event, Fortenberry noted that he served his first term alongside former Husker coach Tom Osborne — then a congressman from Nebraska’s 3rd District.

“I’ve heard of him,” Riley said.

“Don’t get any ideas though, please,” Fortenberry joked.

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