LINCOLN — JD Spielman doesn’t say much to reporters these days.
In fact, he regularly declines interview requests—without malice, it should be noted—as he did last season, though Stanley Morgan Jr. managed to bring him along to a post-game session at least once.
Even among his teammates “he stays pretty quiet,” said junior safety Eli Sullivan.
“I like that about him.”
Wan’Dale Robinson agrees with Sullivan.
“He doesn’t talk too much. He’s just kind of the guy that just goes about his business,” Robinson said. “That’s what I love about him. He’s going to get his job done.
“He’s always going to do the right thing.”
To use a cliché, the junior wide receiver lets his actions speak for him on the field. He leads the Huskers in receiving with 18 catches for 383 yards and one touchdown. He’s also returned eight punts, including one for 76 yards and a touchdown against South Alabama.
It was the second punt-return touchdown of his Husker career.
Spielman caught 66 passes for 818 yards and eight touchdowns last season, despite missing the last two games because of injury. He already ranks sixth at Nebraska in career receptions and receiving yards, as well as in consecutive games with a catch, 25. That streak is active.
As a receiver, Robinson, who also lines up at running back, tries “to model a lot of the things that I do, a lot of clips that I saw before I came here, of what I would do were I him . . . just trying to mirror his routes and the things he does against coverages,” Robinson said.
Spielman caught seven passes for 160 yards in the Huskers’ 42-38 victory against Illinois. Robinson caught eight passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 89 yards and one touchdown. And they both took some big hits after catching passes.
Robinson is listed at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds; Spielman 5-9, 180.
“JD got hit a lot, he got hit a lot,” said Robinson. “But he’s a tough dude. I’ll take him any day of the week . . . that shows that he’s a warrior.”
And he sets an example for teammates.
“Everybody else feels like they have to do the same thing,” Robinson said, “take a hit and you just kind of have to shake it off and get back up and play the next play.”
“That kid’s tough as nails,” Sullivan said of Spielman. “All I think about when he gets hit is, ‘I’m glad that’s not me. I’d rather be giving that hit than taking that.’”
Scott Frost echoed the same thing during Monday’s weekly news conference.
“I talked to the team this morning and one of the things we talked about is the guys that showed a lot of toughness in that (Illinois) game,” said Frost. “I give a lot of credit to Illinois’ secondary. They were physical . . . they put a lot of hits on our guys, and a couple of our little guys.
“JD is tough. Wan’Dale took some shots and kept going. It’s good to see the heart out of some of those guys.”
Sullivan sees Spielman’s attention to detail, as well as the heart, lining up against him in practice.
“He’s all serious,” Sullivan said. “He’s looking at every single detail, like what foot you have up and all that. He’s looking about what his route is and he’s like . . . what happens if he gets double-teamed?
“He’s thinking through all the pre-snap. I can see it in his head. He knows what he’s going to get. And he knows what he’s going to do once he gets it. So he’s pretty good thinking.
“His motor’s turning on the field. You can see that.”
Once you get to know him, “JD’s a little jokester,” Sullivan said.
Robinson agrees with that, too.
“I’m not as funny as JD. JD’s really, really funny,” said Robinson. “But we’re just kind of our own people, and I really love that about him, too. Let me say this, he doesn’t talk much out on the football field. Outside the football field he talks a lot . . . yeh.”
Just not to reporters.
That’s no criticism. It’s his right.
Mike Babcock is a long-time Husker beat reporter and editor at Hail Varsity Magazine.