Offensive line is one of the most experienced position groups on Nebraska’s team with all five starters returning including three seniors-to-be, but the most senior player in that room is Christian Gaylord.
No one has been a Husker for longer. The 6-foot-6 offensive tackle arrived in Lincoln in 2015 and redshirted his first season. He carved out a role for himself over the next three years though never won a starting job on offense. He was expected to earn a back-up tackle job lost season but went down with a season-ending knee injury a couple weeks before the season opener.
Then, on Sept. 20, Gaylord’s father, Scott, died in a car accident.
“Well done my good and faithful servant.” Is the first thing God would tell my father as he entered the beautiful pearly gates of Heaven. My father is the best man I’ve ever met, I was blessed to call him Dad. You’re finally home and I can’t wait to see you again. Love you Dad. pic.twitter.com/0TahTgWR4b
— Christian Gaylord (@Big_Chris_65) September 24, 2019
Gaylord put five year of his life into this program. He saw the game taken away from him by an injury and then suffered an unimaginable tragedy on top of it. He easily could have taken his degree and moved on with his life.
But the game — and the Nebraska program — meant to much to him for his career to end like that.
“Lost his father last year; besides his family, were Christian’s support, which is the way it should be for a college football player,” offensive line coach Greg Austin said. “In his mind, he’s like “I need to go and play my fifth year.” We had big plans for Christian even last year, and he knew it. It was unfortunate he went down with his knee injury when we went down. He lost his father. And he said ‘Coach, If I have the opportunity I’d like to come back.’ I said, ‘Hell yeah, let’s go. We need you back, we need the depth, we need to make sure that we’ve got competition.’”
On Feb. 14, Gaylord announced that he had been granted his sixth year of eligibility.
I’m excited to announce my waiver to extend my eligibility for the 2020-21 season has been approved by the NCAA. I’m excited to play one more season at the best college football program in the NCAA. @HuskerFBNation #HuskerProud #ForMyDad pic.twitter.com/2Wcpae0GdM
— Christian Gaylord (@Big_Chris_65) February 15, 2020
"It's great,” starting left tackle Brenden Jaimes said. “We love having Christian in the O-line room, and everyday he comes in with a smile on his face. For him to come back and play one more and be at this university for one more year, it's a cool thing.”
"He wanted it more than anything,” Jaimes continued. “That dude loves this program. He loves football, and that's why he does it. He's an inspiration to all of us.”
Austin said he needs guys in his room like Gaylord who really want to be there and want to take ownership in helping to turn around the program and rebuild the Pipeline.
“Guys want to be here, guys want to be good, guys go out there and bust their ass to be good,” Austin said. “It’s on us to make sure that were coaching them the right way, teaching them the right way, loving them the right way, mentoring them the right way so that they can be good. That’s what they came to be here. Christian is no different.”
Before everything shut down, Austin said he was expecting to see competition at every position, which is different than the staff’s first two years on campus. That competition would have included the offensive tackle position despite both starters returning.
Austin said he had big plans for Gaylord before his injury this season, and this spring he was going to compete with Matt Farniok and Bryce Benhart for the starting right tackle job.
Gaylord has played in 33 games in his three years of competition. He’s played primarily on special teams but earned his way onto the field on offense as a sophomore and junior.
Gaylord is facing an uphill battle in terms of winning a starting spot in 2020, but his presence alone should elevate Nebraska’s offensive line, both on the field and in the locker room.
Whenever football resumes, Gaylord will get a second chance at completing his senior year, and that’s something the Huskers can rally around in 2020.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.