Nebraska and Tennessee kicked off the Music City Bowl festivities Tuesday night with a wing-eating contest where the final two left standing were a Husker defensive lineman and a Husker offensive lineman. Defensive tackle Garret Johns ultimately took the title, but the fact that it came down to the offense and defense wasn’t that surprising to the Huskers.
“That’s usually how it works,” offensive tackle Nick Gates said. “Us lineman like to eat a lot.”
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh agreed.
“No question,” Cavanaugh said. “No surprise at all.”
As the contest took place, two Huskers were particularly loud in cheering on their fellow teammates. Those two were Gates and offensive guard Jerald Foster. While it was just a chicken-wing eating contest, the personalities of the two truly shined. It’s the same fire each brings to the practice field every day.
“Me and Jerald, like I always say, we like to fight,” Gates said. “We like to get after things. We’re probably the two instigators.”
Cavanaugh doesn’t mind the fire from the younger offensive linemen either. It’s something he’s looking forward to about the 2017 group.
“I’m really excited about it,” Cavanaugh said. “I think we have a really good group of sophomores with (Tanner) Farmer, Gates, Jerald and Cole Conrad.”
Becoming leaders is something Gates and Foster are especially focused on. Both have become outspoken about the kind of players they want to be for the Huskers, which means they plan to be more outspoken toward their teammates going forward.
“This year, we saw toward the middle of the season that our O-line was good the first half but it started taking a toll and diving down,” Gates said. “That had to do with injuries and things like that but a lot of us were complaining a lot so we’re going to try to take that out of our game. We’re going to listen to Coach Cav a lot more.”
A part of building that leadership is accepting the fact that they won’t be everyone’s best friends, which is something Gates and Foster are OK with.
“We’re just going to get on guys a lot more than we were last year because we were kind of nice guys this last summer and winter so we’re definitely not going to be those guys,” Gates said. “We’re definitely going to try to take charge and hold a couple of more meetings and get the guys in their playbooks a little bit more.”
Cavanaugh called both Gates and Foster “smart guys” who “want to be coached.” Foster has been especially coachable in Cavanaugh’s opinion, which was solidified over the time Foster was out with an injury. He believes that Foster has bought into what Cavanaugh wants to accomplish on Nebraska’s offensive line, which starts with fundamentals.
“To me, it’s all about your technique so we just work it every day,” Cavanaugh said. “We call it daily vitamins. Some guys buy into it. Other guys it takes longer. Jerald’s been great.”
Gates has bought in too. He hopes in doing so that both he and Foster can become the leaders that those around listen to and trust. Cavanaugh plans to push them both on their journeys and is anxious to see what both can accomplish as Huskers.
“Leaders rise, so we’ll see,” Cavanaugh said.
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.