Scott Frost talked in the offseason how he wanted his Nebraska football team to be tough.
If Frost is looking for toughness, he’s found it in Garrett Nelson, a true freshman linebacker from Scottsbluff.
Nelson seems to be a throwback to a time when a player just doesn’t come off the field. He proved that in one fall practice.
Nelson was doing a drill against fellow freshman offensive lineman Bryce Benhart. Nelson got his hand tangled up in Benhart’s facemask. The hand lost that battle.
“I thought I broke my thumb. I just kept playing,” Nelson said. “I walked over to my team and looked at my thumb and it was all bleeding. I took my glove off, my thumbnail is half off. Well, I got to deal with this now.”
Nelson asked how much time was left in practice. He was told 30 minutes, so after getting his thumb wrapped up he headed back on the field.
But after practice, the injury needed more treatment. Teammate Joey Johnson was there to watch.
“I played the rest of practice,” Nelson said. “My adrenaline was going, so I didn’t really feel it. I went to see the doctor and showed him. He cut in and around it.
“Joey Johnson was sitting there watching. He was like freaking out. I’m laughing the whole time.”
Nelson caught the coach’s eyes this fall with his no-holds-barred style of play. He gives 110 percent. His motor never stops. All those cliches fit Nelson.
“Just work hard,” Nelson said. “There is no secret. Run to the ball and work your ass off. There’s nothing special I did. I’m not bigger, stronger, faster. Just run everywhere and work as hard as you can.”
Nelson was one of a handful of true freshmen to play Saturday against South Alabama. He thought he played about five plays. The official statistics gave him one assisted tackle for the game.
There was another incident earlier this fall in practice that also involved Benhart, who somehow pulled Nelson’s jersey up over his helmet during a drill. Nelson couldn’t see anything
“It was awesome though,” Nelson said. “I’d never had my helmet come off before so it was pretty sick.”
Benhart has been one of Nelson’s main foes during fall practices.
“We’ve been battling,” Nelson said. “I couldn’t ask for a better tackle to go against here. Or Matt Farniok. He’s done a great job battling.”
Now Nelson is looking forward to his first road trip as a Husker when Nebraska plays at Colorado on Saturday. Growing up in Scottsbluff, Nelson heard plenty about the Buffaloes. His parents filled him in on the rivalry between the two schools.
“They told me about the experiences they had,” Nelson said. “I was definitely on that border, so my friends were split. I’m excited. I’m ready to roll.”
Nelson expects to do well every time he steps on the field. Sometimes those expectations cause some nervousness to leak out.
“I always put a lot of expectations on myself in terms of how I want to play and how I want to practice,” Nelson said. “Every high school game, I felt like I was going to throw up in my helmet. I’m sure every college game I’ll feel like that. I just place such a high emphasis on being the angriest dude on the field or the baddest dude on the field.”