LINCOLN — When it comes to keeping a team of young men accountable, Coach Mike Riley and his staff have found a unique way to do so. The program – called the ‘Husker Way’ – is comprised of 11 players who were voted on as leaders of the team during winter conditioning. The 11 players selected were Jerald Foster, Freedom Akinmoladun, Nick Gates, Mick Stoltenberg, Chris Weber, Chris Jones, Dedrick Young, Tanner Lee, Luke McNitt, Stanley Morgan and Jacob Weinmaster.
“It was the weight coaches idea that basically within our team they establish – by our team voting – some built-in leadership,” Riley said. “I think we had them pick 10 guys, maybe 11, as captains voted on by the team. The top vote getters at 11 different positions basically drafted the team, to form teams. And they keep points in all of the areas of their life, whether it’s academics and going to class, going to study hall. They get extra credit for doing stuff like community service so there’s point totals moving up and down according to how guys are doing.
“It goes into the weight room, it goes into being on time, it goes to keeping their locker clean. The champions will get a prize at the end of it, which will be toward the start of fall camp. So it’s ongoing and it’s been fun to watch.”
Beyond drafting their teammates, the 11 voted leaders also have partners to help keep them accountable through the process.
“Each guy has a partner within the team and if one of the guys messes up, he gets kicked out of the locker room and has to go down here to the locker room and his partner has to go with him,” Riley said. “There’s stuff like that built in that makes it pretty accountable for everybody, I hope. I think the kids like it.”
The players do like it, as Foster spoke highly of the program during Nebraska’s first spring football practice.
“Being able to have those 11 and just be able to see and put your foot in the water before you dive in and just to know how it feels to be leading groups and guide people in the right way,” Foster said. “The way we kind of organized it was like a point system, so doing good things in the community and working in the weight room and stuff like that, you’d get points toward it so it made it a fun way to get through winter conditioning. I think that the guys liked it so hopefully through spring ball we’ll keep it going and see where it takes us.”
As for how each team is doing so far, Foster was clear that the competition is still in full swing and there’s plenty of time for each group to get a chance at victory.
“We haven’t finished the game,” Foster said. “It’s still going, don’t worry.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.