A couple of defensive linemen met with the media on Friday, showing off their newly-shaven heads. The group cut off their hair the night before fall camp began as a show of unity, with Ty Robinson suggesting the idea.
The only holdout was Colton Feist, who will join his bald brethren after a wedding on Saturday.
The defensive line group lost a lot from last year’s team, including its coach. Heading into his fourth year in the program, Robinson is embracing the opportunity to step forward as a leader, though he’s doing it in his own unique way.
“I feel like Garrett [Nelson] is more like the spokesperson of the room,” Robinson said. “I’ll be kind of more like the bodyguard or, not henchman, but I’ll drive the idea and I’ll make sure that everyone understands what’s going on type of deal. With those older guys, it really helped me understand kind of how to go about the leadership role and how to lead guys that are younger and take them under their wing and help them how they helped me.”
Robinson said that the “bodyguard” role involves “just kind of making sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to do — going to meals, holding that standard, making sure everybody’s just up to par.”
Mike Dawson is coaching the whole defensive front now following Tony Tuioti’s departure, and he sees Robinson’s role on that team as more than just a bodyguard, regardless of what the 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman may say.
“I think Ty might be being a little bit humble that way,” Dawson said. “I think he definitely has some leadership qualities that probably come along with being a little bit of an enforcer. I’ve used the term, maybe the sheriff in the locker room, going to keep everything in line, keep everything together. And I think Ty has the ability to do both those things. Ty’s playing at a high level right now and I think that that’s part of it. You’ve got to be able to bring the whole group with you when you’re playing at a high level. You want the guys to all be working in that direction and I think Ty’s done a nice job so far this camp of that.”
Nash Hutmacher said Robinson can definitely be a yeller when the situation calls for it, and the other players have responded well to his leadership.
“At practice, if there’s something going on, you’re going to hear about it,” Hutmacher said. “He’s kind of the first guy that will get fired up about something or whatever. No matter whatever’s going on, he’s going to have your back, and the same with all of us. If something’s going on, we’ve got each other’s back. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to play football and win games.”
Robinson said stepping forward as a more vocal leader hasn’t been difficult for him because of the players he’s working with, both the returners and the newcomers up front.
“The whole d-line room was pretty close,” Robinson said. “With the new guys coming in too, we’ve really accepted them and I think they’ve accepted us. They’ve molded and they fit really well with us. So it’s just really fun.”
The defensive linemen will have one more newcomer to incorporate part of the way through camp as Texas Tech transfer Devin Drew is still finishing up his obligations in Lubbock.
“He’s going to have to be sped up more than sped up is,” Robinson said. “I hope he’s got the playbook right now and that he’s kind of understanding it from that standpoint to where he can come here and when we have walkthroughs he can go get those reps to know what he’s doing. And then another thing is if you can’t accept our standard and if you can’t accept — no one’s hating on you, no one’s angry with you. We just want the best out of everyone. And if you can’t understand that, and you get mad when someone gets on you, then I don’t think you’re right for this program.
“And so far nobody’s done that. Everyone’s been really open to criticism. I mean, even I get criticized by everyone. I’m not going to take it to heart or anything like that because I know they just want me to be better and I know they want to win games just as much as I do.”
Robinson is happy to fill his “bodyguard” role, however, deferring to Nelson as the face and voice of the Blackshirts.
“I mean, it’s Garrett,” Robinson said. “He’s a really big personality and he’s a great leader. I think he was born natural for it. He just kind of went into that role, and everyone was OK with that. I’m OK with it, too. I’m not really the one to want to get in front of everyone, but if I do, I will. If I need to back someone up, I will. He’s a really good leader, though. I’d back him up with anything and he’s got my back, I know that.”
Shaving their heads was just one way to display the unity the defensive linemen feel, though it also comes with an added bonus in the middle of the summer.
“Honestly, it feels good,” Hutmacher said. “You take the helmet off, the breeze hits your head.”
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.