When Khalil Davis found out he was heading to Chicago to represent Nebraska at Big Ten Media Days last week, he texted Darrion Daniels to get his help.
Daniels went to Big 12 Media Days last year to represent Oklahoma State, and Davis wanted to know what it was like, what kinds of questions he would be asked, and what all he would get to do. He even went home over the weekend to make sure he has the perfect suit ready to go.
While the event has had its merits questioned in recent years (and no, it’s not just a media party), the player participation aspect certainly provides a little bit of insight into each team. Michigan isn’t bringing its senior quarterback, Shea Patterson. Coach Jim Harbaugh will undoubtedly field questions about that decision. Does that say anything about Patterson? His place in the locker room? Does it mean absolutely nothing? (With Harbaugh, this could be the most likely answer.)
But Michigan’s also just one of 12 teams not bringing a quarterback. Iowa’s Nate Stanley and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez are the only two going.
Stanley isn’t much of a surprise; he went last year. Martinez, to be fair, isn’t much of a surprise either. Most media folks assumed two of the three attendees would be linebacker Mohamed Barry and Martinez. Davis was the surprise pick of the bunch, and it was a big deal to him that he got the nod.
Same goes for Martinez. He’s the first sophomore Nebraska has ever sent. This has been a trip reserved for seniors since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Only four juniors have even gone.
“It’s an honor,” Martinez said Sunday after the Nebraska Football Road Race. “When I saw that, I was a little bit surprised but thankful that Coach Frost and the rest of the coaching staff trust me to handle myself and represent Nebraska the right way.”
It’s been written so much it’s almost definitely a cliche at this point, but Martinez just carries himself like a senior. It was probably a no-brainer for the coaching staff to send him as the face of the program but also a guy who won’t be overtaken by the moment. When he’s asked a question, there’s always this little pause before he begins to answer, a moment to collect himself and make sure what he’s about to say is the right thing.
That he found it surprising to find out he was one of the Husker representatives just goes to show that even in spite of the accolades and the attention, he’s still as unassuming as he was when he landed in Lincoln. He doesn’t like pointing to the name on the back of his jersey because the focus, as he sees it, isn’t on him, but on the team as a whole.
Nebraska’s staff is comfortable with Martinez as the program’s public face because he isn’t going to Chicago to stir the pot or call out rivals or trash talk other teams. None of the three guys going will. They feel they’ve got something to prove first.
And that’s perhaps the best message Nebraska is sending. Last year, Scott Frost told the Big Ten community to get the Huskers now, because they wouldn’t in the future. This year, Nebraska is sending three guys who have been all business this offseason. Martinez likely won’t guarantee a Big Ten title berth. But these Huskers definitely feel the time to “get them” is over.
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.