Of the Gifford brothers, Isaac, a freshman defensive back who joined Nebraska last cycle on a blueshirt, is probably the best coach. At least, that’s according to a guy he just recently coached.
“Just because Isaac’s got more fire,” said Nathaniel, the youngest, a running back and outside linebacker from Lincoln Southeast High School. “Me and Luke, we’re kind of laid back a little bit, but he gets after you right from the get-go. Right when he steps out at practice, ‘Alright, this is what we’re going to do, this is how it’s gonna be,’ and that’s how it ends up being.
“He’s a good leader, especially for a team like Southeast. We’re really young this year and I think he came in and helped change our mindset.”
When Nebraska’s season was upended in early August, Isaac, along with several other Huskers, were allowed to join local area high school teams as volunteer coaches helping out at practice and on game days.
Isaac and defensive lineman Casey Rogers joined Southeast. Nathaniel said he helped with running backs and safeties. Nathaniel being the No. 2 running back for the Knights—along with being a starter at LSE’s “Monster” linebacker spot—meant the brothers were working hand-in-hand.
“He helped us work on steps, he helped us work on formations, how to block properly in pass pro,” Nathaniel said. “He just helped (by) being there, encouraging, being an extra guy to help motivate.”
Now that Nebraska will be returning to practice and preparing for a season, Isaac and his teammates will be going back to watching under the Friday night lights rather than coaching.
Daily COVID-19 testing in the Big Ten conference begins on Sept. 30. At that point, teams can begin practicing in pads in preparation for the season. While Nebraska has been practicing, Husker coaches had been limited to 12 hours a week with the team, only five of which can be spent on the field. That recently moved to 20-hour weeks, according to Athletic Director Bill Moos.
The expectation was that once that number was bumped up, the young men serving as volunteer coaches would hang it up. It didn’t appear as if Rogers or Isaac were with the Knights this past Friday during a 24-21 win over Creighton Prep.
It was a brief set-up, only lasting a few weeks, but for the pair of brothers, it was completely unique. Luke, the oldest brother and current member of the Dallas Cowboys, is usually the one coaching up Nathaniel. They both play outside linebacker while Isaac has made his name as a safety. Still, he had plenty to offer.
“It was a crazy experience,” Nathaniel said. “I think he helped a lot. … He gave me more crap for sure, but like I said, it’s out of love. He’s trying to help me get better. He sees something in me and I’m grateful for that. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
With four regular-season games left in Nathaniel’s senior year, the 4-0 Knights are cruising toward the Nebraska State Playoffs.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.