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Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit: Quentin Lueninghoener

Mailbag: Favorite Piece of Sports Memorabilia, a Reimagined QB Race and More

June 24, 2021

Imagine all of the quarterbacks signed by Nebraska’s current staff were freshmen at the same time? Who would win that job? That and more in this week’s Mailbag.

What’s your favorite piece of sports memorabilia you own? Also, if you could own any piece of sports memorabilia, what would it be? (@Starkastic8) 

Erin Sorensen: Good question. I think my favorite sports memorabilia is probably my life-size cutouts of Bo Pelini and Zac Taylor. The Pelini one(s) came from the previously-named Capital One Bowl (and they sent two identical ones). The Taylor one came from my job at Nebraska when I worked in the admissions office. They’re both in my basement and they sometimes scare me if I’m not paying attention, but they’re random and unexpected so I will never get rid of them. With that said, I collect random sports memorabilia. I have everything from bobble heads (Kyle Korver, Herbie Husker, random Stormchaser player on a surfboard) to pennants (one from Avon Old Farms signed by Casey Rogers, fun fact) to signed footballs (one signed by Mike Riley’s staff, which includes two defensive line coaches who apparently crossed over the signing of this football just barely: Hank Hughes and John Parrella) to a pom pom from Oregon. The more unexpected the better, so to answer your second question, I’m not sure what it is that I’d like to own. Maybe a helmet from a really awful alternate uniform year for any school? 

Brandon Vogel: Now that I’ve been asked to consider it, I realize I don’t own a ton of sports memorabilia. My favorite is a baseball signed by Pedro Martinez. I lived in Boston then and was at Fenway Park as often as I could get/afford tickets. Through a connection, I was able to get the ball signed prior to a game. Pedro’s obviously a great player, but I prize that ball most because it marked an important time in my life. As for my “grail” piece of memorabilia, I really want one of the 1974 Cotton Bowl watches that were given to coaches and players. Nebraska beat Texas in that game, Tom Osborne’s first bowl game, and it connects two things that interest me—watches and college football. They’re not cheap, emerge infrequently and, when they do, are tough to get because watch collectors, who may have no interest in the teams, game, etc., do have an interest in it just as a timepiece. It’s kind of hard to imagine today, but Cotton Bowl teams prior to 1972 were gifted Rolex watches. By the time Nebraska appeared in 1974, the watches were made by Tudor, Rolex’s sister brand, which is already more than most people probably want to know about Cotton Bowl watches from the 1960s and 1970s. 

Mike Babcock: Because I save so many things—doesn’t make my wife especially happy, the clutter—I’d have a problem identifying one of those things: a brick from Schulte Field House, where my uncle’s office was when he was the football (and baseball) equipment manager; a foul ball from Candlestick Park, hit by the Expos Bob Bailey; a program signed by Elgin Baylor, at an NBA exhibition game here in Lincoln (think he was the GM of the Clippers); several photographs, including one of the “Scoring Explosion” backfield signed by each of the four; a baseball scorecard, signed by Bill Madlock, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench; and so it goes . . .  

If you took every QB commit under Frost and put them all in their freshman year to compete for the starting job, who would win it? (Obviously we have seen 3 years of 2AM already but ignore that. So basically, which one came in with the most promise/upside, not which would win today.) (@InDaWilderness)  

GS: I think Adrian Martinez would win this fairly easily. As a freshman Luke McCaffrey wasn’t ready to play. Logan Smothers wasn’t fully healthy when he arrived and needed more time. Heinrich Haarberg needs development but I think he’d be the only one to give Martinez a run for his money here.  

BV: I’m with Greg, Martinez is a heavy favorite. His strong freshman season allowed Nebraska to take on a less-than-prototypical QB the next year in McCaffrey. Smothers and Haarberg are also enticing (in slightly different ways) but probably weren’t as “ready made” out of high school as Martinez. Torres is interesting as he’s something of a departure from the players signed thus far, but I’d still take Martinez to earn the job with him in the race. I’m not sure having such a heavy favorite in this hypothetical is a good thing, but so it is.   

What’s Ron Brown’s role with the Huskers? Is he done being on the sidelines? Do you think Bo Pelini will coach again? Are any of his assistants currently coaching? I thought that some of his assistants were good quality coaches. (@CarnesRegg) 

ES: Ron Brown’s official title is senior offensive analyst. He was previously the director of player development for Nebraska. My understanding with any analyst role is that they can be on the sidelines but they cannot actively coach during a game. As for Pelini, I’m sure he’ll find a spot again. I’m not sure where, but I doubt his coaching days are over. And yes, he has a number of former assistants that are still coaching. John Papuchis is the special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach for Florida State. Mike Ekeler is the special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Tennessee. Shawn Watson is an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach at Northern Iowa (and I find the typo in his title to be oddly charming). Tim Beck, who replaced Watson at Nebraska, is now the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for NC State. John Garrison is also at NC State as the o-line coach. Barney Cotton is no longer coaching as he focuses on his health, but he was most recently at UNLV. Ted Gilmore is the tight ends coach at Michigan State, while Ross Els is the Spartans’ special teams coordinator and linebackers coach. Joe Ganz—who I absolutely am counting in this conversation—is the wide receivers coach at UNI (no typos in his title though). Before anyone asks, yes, Carl Pelini is still coaching too. He is the head coach of Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio. 

Have the Huskers shifted what they’re looking for in QBs? Seems like the last and future QBs they’re into are accurate passing with the ability to scramble. As opposed to AM2 who’s clearly been asked to run a lot. (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: It does feel like there has been some sort of shift here. Heinrich Haarberg and Richard Torres are both passers that can run when needed. I wonder if this is also an admission by Scott Frost that they need to feature the running back run game a lot more to have success. The team continues to load up on wide receivers and tight ends so it makes sense to have a quarterback that can deliver the ball downfield.  

Do you think AM2 will come back after this season? Frost said he’s like him to during the Blitz. Would that be good for the team? (@Sal_Vasta3)
If Adrian Martinez has a great year numbers-wise and leads Nebraska to at least a winning record, what do you think his pro chances are? (@TwinTwisterDad) 

ES: We’ve addressed this previously in the mailbag so I won’t reiterate too much of what was already said, but I don’t think it’s likely he returns either way. I’d have to look at the quarterback class for the NFL Draft next year to know what he’s up against but if he has a strong year, I don’t see him at least not getting a look. With all of that said, in that mailbag I linked above, Jacob gives you a reason for why maybe he will return (or at least make the decision more difficult either way). Guess we’ll see. 

BV: In some ways, I think a strong year for Martinez (which presumably comes with a stronger year for the team) makes it more likely he returns. If it’s just mostly the same as it has been, is a fifth year that appealing? He probably has to have a strong season just to get on the draft radar, but if you’ve just had your best year and the NFL remains a distant possibility, wouldn’t the pull to return be stronger? Come back with some momentum, hopefully help the team maintain it and potentially boost your stock? 

How many FB commitments does NU between now and the 4th of July? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: The Huskers are at seven now. I think they pick up three more by July 4. 

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