I love Throwback Thursdays. It’s a trend on social media that’s taken on a life of its own, a chance to look back and share a photo, a video, a memory from years past.
Kind of like this..
September of 2006. On the road with the KETV Sports Crew covering the Huskers in Los Angeles at the Coliseum.
All of my friends in this picture, photojournalists Mike Richard and Jim Healey, and legendary sportsman Jon Schuetz, have all since moved on to new adventures! But I can still remember, eight years ago, Assistant News Director Vonn Jones coming up to me in the newsroom and asking ‘you want to go to LA and cover the USC game?’
YES. YES I DO.
Covering the Huskers has been one of my favorite parts of my job at KETV. There’s just something magical about the minutes before the game starts, positive energy radiating from tens of thousands of fans, and literally feeling vibrations from the roar of Memorial Stadium after that first touchdown.
This year, as part of our award-winning Big Red Zone coverage with Sports Director Andy Kendeigh, Thor Tripp and our Husker experts Sean Callahan and Damon Benning, I get to share a series of stories we are dubbing ‘Throwback Thursday: The Husker Edition.” Who are your favorite Nebraska players? And where are they now?
I’m hoping to cover all the eras, the big names you know and remember. Some, like Damon, have become well known off the football field years after hanging up their cleats. (Damon, for example, is currently a sidelines reporter for the Big 10 Network and a Sports Talk Radio host on 1620 The Zone with Gary Sharp.) Others have moved on in less public ways, off Husker Nation’s radar but certainly not out of fans’ memories. Kenny Walker, who made national headlines at Nebraska when he became one of only a handful of deaf players to play in the NFL, now coaches hard-of-hearing high school students in Colorado. Lawrence Phillips, famous for his athletic ability at Nebraska and infamous for his criminal activity, is now serving a 31-year prison sentence for assault in California. CJ Zimmerer, the brainchild behind the now iconic ‘Team Jack’ touchdown run that brought millions to tears, is a juvenile probation officer in Sarpy County.
We kick off Throwback Thursdays with a Husker Fan Favorite in recent years, 2005-2006 quarterback Zac Taylor.
Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!
When I first pitched this crazy Throwback Thursday idea to Andy, along with a list of potential former players to follow up with, Andy noted this about Zac Taylor: Tough (NFL Assistant). Taylor is in the beginning of his third year coaching quarterbacks with the Miami Dolphins. Still, Zac Taylor was the first former Husker to respond when I contacted him.
“I wish I would’ve been able to meet more people,” Taylor told me by phone from Miami. “Just to travel out in the state and get more opportunities to affect more people.”
Taylor only played two years at Nebraska, but in that short time, arguably made a huge impact on the team and the program. During one of his favorite games, against Texas A&M in 2006, Taylor broke both the all-time career passing record and the single-season touchdown pass record. He would later be named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.
Nebraska won the Big 12 North that year, a highpoint of the Bill Callahan Era of Nebraska Football. Taylor, who still holds several individual offensive records in passing at Nebraska, was the team leader.
His passion for the game never dwindled after college; Taylor moved to Texas and was hired as an assistant coach at Texas A&M. He calls his move to the NFL a few years later ‘exciting’.
“I hadn’t played in the NFL, only been briefly associated with the team, really didn’t know what to expect,” said Taylor. “What I’ve learned is this team and this organization is full of professionals who love football as much as I do, so it’s been a real pleasure working with the Dolphins.”
Taylor says he still watches Nebraska football, whether it be from a hotel on the road with the Dolphins, or at home with his wife, Sarah, and their two boys. The University and the football team will always have special meaning for the couple; it’s where they met ten years ago. Back then, Sarah Sherman was a grad assistant in media relations. Taylor still remembers seeing his wife for the first time at his first practice at Nebraska.
“She would come to practice, after practice, and grab players for interviews,” said Taylor.
As for the Huskers, Taylor says Coach Pelini’s done a great job and that his players enjoy playing for him.
“We played them at Texas A&M a few years ago and it was one of the most disciplined, toughest defenses we faced,” said Taylor.
And for those players getting ready to take the field this season, Taylor has a message.
“Soak up every moment and embrace the fans,” said Taylor. “It truly is a great thing to play for all of those people.”
Good luck this season, #13!