Photo Credit: Erin Sorensen

Chief Borders, Thomas Fidone Discuss Offseason Competition

March 06, 2023

Two players who are looking to see their first significant Nebraska game action in 2023 have been finding success through the offseason. 

At Monday’s press conference, sophomores Thomas Fidone and Chief Borders took the time to talk to media, along with head coach Matt Rhule. The former is a third-year tight end who has only had limited snaps in one game due to injury the past two seasons. The latter is a transfer linebacker from Florida who primarily saw special teams action for the Gators.

Rhule’s staff has put on an offseason competition, separating the roster into teams, and Fidone and Borders have been standouts. Fidone was the captain of the winning team, while Borders was the individual leader in points. The head coach avoided saying they’ve been the best two players throughout the offseason, but had high praise for the pair.

“In probably six, seven years of doing this, [Fidone is] one of the best captains I’ve ever seen in terms of willing his team to victory,” Rhule said. “And then Chief as a new player, I think he was the leading point-getter, he and Teddy [Prochazka] were tied and so I elected those guys to come.”

The offseason competition was seven weeks long, according to Rhule. Teams could gain points through community service, going to other team’s events and some practice competitions. They could also lose points by doing things such as missing study hall or being late.

Borders said he got much of his 184 points from community service.

“Leading the team points, that came from, truly, community service,” Borders said. “Me and my boy Elliott Brown and a couple of my other teammates were able to go to several different elementary schools, and just give them an assembly and talk about bullying and talk about standing up and being a leader, things of that nature. So as a newcomer, I felt like it was important for me to get around the community and show my face and give back to the community.”

Borders said he loves competition, as does the rest of the team. That applies to his position as well, where he hopes to make a difference for the Huskers in 2023. He appreciates the versatility of defensive coordinator Tony White’s scheme, and knows he could end up playing multiple roles.

“I plan on doing what’s best for the team,” Borders said. “Right now I’m at linebacker, but I plan on doing a plethora of other things if told to do so.”

Fidone is also looking to make an impact. The former four-star recruit said he’s at 100%, and felt he was ready to play during last season despite not being medically cleared. Like Borders, he’s embraced the challenges of the offseason. Fidone said the main goal of winter conditioning isn’t just to get in shape, but more of a mental test. The upcoming spring break could take away all an athlete’s progress if they aren’t focused enough to keep working.

While his team ended up the clear winners of the competition the past few weeks, it didn’t start off nearly at the same level.

“The first week we lost, we were losing,” Fidone said. “And we were the worst team by far. And after that, I was extremely upset. They call my name, they say ‘Fidone, last place.’ I was like, ‘Okay, that’s not happening again.'”

He did so by holding his team accountable in their group chat, directing them to take part in different things. By the end, they had won by a wide margin, according to Fidone.

Overall, he’s liked the way the competition and offseason as a whole has been structured. It’s given him, along with the rest of the team, to prove themselves to a new coaching staff.

“You got to earn the respect of the coaches. And everyone can talk and everyone can say how great they are and why they’re a leader. But really, the true leaders will emerge from these competitions and from the work that they’re having us do, because it was not easy,” Fidone said. “There were some times when I was second-guessing myself, like it was tough. Sometimes I didn’t see nothing but white. So it was pretty crazy but it was extremely fun. I loved it, loved competing.”

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