Nebraska Cornhuskers tight end Austin Allen looking to the sidelines during game huddle
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Husker Player Leadership Extends Past Four Captains

August 23, 2021

Austin Allen achieved a goal of his this past week, being named one of four captains for the upcoming season. 

While proud of his journey, he was quick to take the focus off himself. He said that after hearing of the honor, he told non-captain leaders on the team that their voices were still equally important. 

“Just because I have the title of captain doesn’t mean I’m any more of a leader,” Allen said at Monday’s press conference. “We’re all gonna lead the same way.” 

The Huskers have been emphasizing a player-led leadership approach this offseason, and players continued to emphasize that on Monday. Allen said that process is the biggest step the team has taken this year.

“Unless otherwise directed, the players are gonna lead this way. Unless Frost wants to go this direction, we’re gonna lead this way,” he said.

Multiple non-captains have defined leadership goals. According to Allen, fifth-year linebacker Damian Jackson is in charge of accountability. 

He also pointed out fourth-year sophomore center Cameron Jurgens as a player who is not a captain but is one of the best leaders on the team. While not making an appearance, his presence was felt. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was wearing a “Beef Jurgy” shirt while speaking, and offensive lineman Ethan Piper referred to Jurgens as “the dude.” 

“He works hard, he’s gritty, he’s the definition of what a pipeline player should be,” Piper said. “For me, just being next to him I feel extremely honored, he elevates my game as well. In the offensive line room we got all these definitions of what a pipeline is and he fits every single category.” 

That being said, the team captains—Allen, Martinez, Damion Daniels and Cam Taylor-Britt—all value earning that honor.  

Martinez is a three-time captain, the first player in team history to accomplish that feat. He spent a significant portion of his appearance lifting up other Huskers, from wearing the merchandise of teammates to praising the progress of Allen and backup quarterback Logan Smothers. 

“My coach always says leadership is performance, performance is leadership, and Austin (Allen) is one of the best players on this team,” Martinez said. “I think understanding that and understanding the influence he had on the team, he really started developing that in the winter and the spring and then in the summer as well and in camp, and really stepped to the plate.”

On the defensive side, both Taylor-Britt and Daniels are first-time captains. While both are still juniors, they’ve been contributing for the Huskers since 2018. Daniels arrived a year earlier and redshirted in 2017, but the two built up a connection over the past few seasons.

“He kind of took me in as well as an older brother, and just to see him get that opportunity just like me, It was crazy,” Taylor-Britt said. “We lowkey almost cried together.”

Daniels said he takes pride in being chosen as a captain. His brother, Darrion, was a captain for the team in 2019 and was happy to hear the news. 

“I told him, like, ‘Hey man, I did it,’” Damion Daniels said. “And he was like, ‘I knew you could do it, I always knew you could, you were born to be a leader.’”

The team will try to translate that offseason leadership into in-game success, starting with Saturday’s game at Illinois. 

“That’s kind of our mentality now,” Allen said. “We’re gonna win football games and I think that’s gonna stem from how we handle as players, stuff that (Scott) Frost shouldn’t have to take care of.”

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