Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., tight end Cethan Carter and I-back Terrell Newby may be making the transition to being former Nebraska Cornhuskers on the football field.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t still enjoy interacting with Husker Nation.
The trio was in Grand Island Saturday for an autograph signing at the Conestoga Mall. Prior to that, they talked about their appreciation of the fans, their time in Lincoln and their next step in their football careers.
An autograph and a 30-second conversation with a Husker can make the day for a young fan. The players are well aware of this and respect the responsibility that comes with suiting up for the Big Red.
ARMSTRONG: “Obviously I like interacting not only with the fans but with the kids because as we get older, we become role models to kids. I’m able to see them and spend a little time with them. Fifteen to 20 seconds of saying ‘hello’ and shaking a hand can make a person’s life. That’s something we learned a lot about being at Nebraska, spending time with people here and there can make a difference in their life.
“We can be role models at Nebraska and volunteer and interact not with fans but people at McDonald’s. We try to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Doing signings is great, but at the same time, I think we enjoy interacting with fans. I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could be in Lincoln and being far away they just can’t get into the car and drive and say, ‘Let’s go to a game’ or ‘Hey, let’s go to a signing’ when there’s thousands of people lined up and they don’t get a chance to get an autograph. I think this is a great opportunity to get out here and help them.”
NEWBY: “Throughout my time I just realized it impacts a lot of people. What you do on and off the field impacts communities. We do stuff like community outreach as Huskers, so getting to know people and getting to interact with people who support you the whole season is pretty good.”
CARTER: “This is a unique place. The people look up to us so we try to hold ourselves to a standard for the youth to look up to.”
Coming from New Orleans (Carter), Los Angeles (Newby) and Cibolo, Texas (Armstrong), none of the trio had a lifelong exposure to what Nebraska football means to the state.
But it didn’t take them long to figure it out.
CARTER: “I knew before I got here when I came to the spring game when they had all of the fans there.”
ARMSTRONG: “It’s obvious once you get here and get a touchdown on the field. The spring game is where everyone got the teaser of the season. I think that’s what people look forward to. That’s why so many people go to the spring game or when (recruits) stand on the sidelines they see the atmosphere and they see so many fans.
“They just had one of those Friday Night Lights deals this last Friday, and I think there were almost 10,000 people there. That shows how much the fan base cares and how big it can be for a group of guys who want to come here. It hit me during the spring game when I could stand on the sideline and feel what it could be like to be a player.”
Their time scoring touchdowns in Memorial Stadium is over. Looking back, their NU careers went by quickly but provided plenty of highlights.
ARMSTRONG: “I think when you play, it flies by. The summers are the longest parts of it, but once the season starts, it flies by. I was talking to Ameer (Abdullah) my freshman year and my buddy Jeremiah Sirles, and they said, ‘Hey, just enjoy it because you’re a freshman now, but one day you’re going to wake up and you’re going to realize wow, I’m a senior. This is my last game.’
“It happened so quick for us.”
NEWBY: “There were a lot of different (highlights). We had a lot of good games. The whole experience coming here from California is just a lot different, but I think it was good for me. I got to see new things and meet different people and see how we can impact people’s lives. I enjoyed it.”
CARTER: “The team bonding was special. I remember coming in as a freshman and didn’t really know too many people. Jake Long kind of took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of the offense. Meeting new people was (a highlight) besides playing on the field. Winning games stands out to everybody.”
Now football becomes a profession. In about a month, Carter and Newby head off to NFL training camps. Carter was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals while Newby signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
Armstrong is searching for an opportunity after being cut by the Vikings after trying out as a safety.
CARTER: “This is something we’ve dreamed about since we were kids. We’re living in the moment, but you’ve got to seize the moment also because you only get one shot at this. You try to take the next step and I’ll do everything I learned from the past and carry it over to the next level.
“It is more independent, so you’ve just got to be a man and trust the process. It is work now.”
NEWBY: “You’re more independent. Nobody is going to walk you through anything. You’ve got to put the work in yourself and do things yourself. We all get an opportunity. You’ve just got to do something with it.”
ARMSTRONG: “I’ve just been training since I got back from camp with Terrell. I’m training, waiting on a phone call. Honestly, it’s just football. You always wish to go to the NFL but mostly it’s a business. You don’t have to worry about school or anything like that. You strictly have to worry about your job. That’s what they always tell you – worry about what you have to do. Right now I’m worrying about staying in shape and see where the road takes me. …
“Position doesn’t matter. I’ve been put all over the field so far. Who knows where I’ll end up?”
Life will take them on separate paths, but the trio said that there is a special bond as a Nebraska Husker. It’s a bond they’ll share with their teammates for the rest of their lives.
NEWBY: “We’re always going to be Huskers so it’s always going to bring us back together. It’s a life-long thing. We played on a team for four years together.”
CARTER: “Coming from New Orleans, I never thought one of my best friends would be from South Dakota.”