Senior Day just may be a little bit more emotional than usual Saturday at Memorial Stadium when the Huskers close out the home season against Minnesota.
Twenty-nine seniors will be making the tunnel walk one last time. Twenty-four of those were 2008 recruits who redshirted that first season under coach Bo Pelini.
Those 24 form the nucleus of Pelini’s first recruiting class. Many of the names are quite familiar to Husker fans.
Justin Blatchford, Seung Hoon Choi, Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Justin Jackson, Brett Maher Tim Marlowe, Cam Meredith, Courtney Osborne, Steve Osborne, Kyler Reed, P.J. Smith, Baker Steinkuhler and Alonzo Whaley were among Pelini’s first class who redshirted that first year with the program.
“It’s a special group of guys,” Pelini said. “Obviously it means a lot to me. It’s hard to believe that this is their last go around in Memorial Stadium. It’s a special group of guys, and it was a class that some of them are fifth-year guys and some are fourth-year guys... I’ve recruited them all and brought them here under some tough situations.”
Pelini put that first recruiting class together in a hurry. He was hired in December of 2007, and the class signed in early February of 2008.
Some were holdovers who had been recruited by Bill Callahan and his staff. Others, like Marlowe, were players that Pelini wanted on his team.
“I look at a guy like Tim Marlowe...I knew who he was, I knew what he represented as a human being, what I thought he could bring to our football program,” Pelini said. “Obviously I think he has played very good football, represented himself well, but I think the only other offer he had at the time was to Youngstown State.
“I knew a lot about him and took a chance on him, To my mind it wasn’t really taking a chance it was taking a good football player, but a better competitor and a tremendous human being and that’s all part of it — of what you do in recruiting.”
Some schools make promises to players during the recruiting process. That’s something Pelini says he’s never done, and he certainly didn’t do it for this group of seniors.
“We try and obviously sell the people aspect of it, obviously the great things this university has to offer football-wise, educationally, culturally, sell the city of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska,” Pelini said.
“We don’t make any false promises. What I believe makes this state and the people in the state what it is, we sell an opportunity and you’re going to get what you earned, and we are pretty black and white and be as honest as we can be when we recruit young men, and like I said we want to first and foremost get guys that fit our culture.”
Compton was one of those guys that fit in Lincoln.
The senior linebacker admits he may be a bit sentimental on Saturday when he goes through is final tunnel walk.
“I’m trying to take it all in and live in every moment that I can because it’s the last year that we’re all going to have together,” Compton said. “It’s going to be memorable. I say I’m not going to get emotional when it happens but we’ll see what happens. We have a game to win and I’ll have a bunch of family in. We’re just trying to send the senior class out the right way.”
That senior class is a close-knit bunch. That may partly be because so many of them went through that first redshirt season together.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Compton said. “We all get along. We’re all usually on the same page and at times there’s a bunch of bickering about stuff like brothers would but we’ve been through a lot together. Like I said earlier, we’re trying to make these last weeks as memorable as we can because we’ll remember this month and the beginning of next month for the rest of our lives. We’re chasing our goals.”
Those goals include winning a Big Ten Conference title and going to the Rose Bowl. It would be the first conference title for the Husker program since 1999, and that would be a big deal.
“That’s something we’ve been working for the past five years as a senior class,” Cotton said. “We have a couple of great opportunities coming up. We’re proud to be Bo’s first class and also to be his first class to win a title would be great, but we still have a few weeks until we get that opportunity so we have to make sure take care of this Saturday first.”
Cotton said Saturday will be emotional for all the seniors. He’s going to try and take the advice given by former Husker Grant Wistrom.
“He spoke to us before the season and said to try and take everything in, try not to block anything out,” Cotton said. “You know that tunnel vision aspect, that type of focus. You can stay focused on the game, but try to take it all in.”
The final tunnel walk will be special, but Whaley doesn’t know if it can match last week when he carried the American flag through the tunnel.
“For some reason, when I was doing the tunnel walk with the flag on Saturday it was louder than ever,” Whaley said. “I really got emotional. It’s a great memory to have.”