Steven M. Sipple: Pelini gets support from highest court

2013-10-25T14:30:00Z 2013-12-25T21:38:10Z Steven M. Sipple: Pelini gets support from highest courtBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

You perhaps knew that Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice, is an ardent Nebraska football fan.

You probably didn't know he has an affinity for — drum roll, please — Waverly.

He tells his wife that Waverly is where he would like to retire.

"And I mean it," Thomas says in "100 Things Nebraska Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," a new book by Sean Callahan of Lincoln.

Thomas continues, "Waverly seems to be a nice community. I don't want to live in a college town, and I don't want to live 45 minutes away from the Huskers. I want to go to the practices and see all my games, and Waverly is right there.

"That's my kind of community … I want to be near regular folks, working-class people."

Who knew?

Callahan's book is full of such interesting nuggets, including plenty of information that was new to me (big surprise, I know). It's a quick, easy and fun read — 100 relatively short chapters, 269 pages in all.

Full disclosure: Sean is a close friend. So is Mike Babcock, whose "'The Nebraska Football Legacy" is a must-read for those who want in-depth history of the program through the early 1990s. I constantly consult Babcock's book.

Callahan, in an interview, noted that many Husker football books have information through 1997, the last national championship season. Callahan's book is full of deep history — for instance, a fascinating chapter about about Bob Devaney's fun at the Legionnaire Club in Lincoln — but is particularly strong in covering the past 15 years or so.

The 33-year-old Callahan reports for Omaha radio and television stations and is the publisher of HuskerOnline.com. No reporter was closer to Bill Callahan than Sean.

As for Thomas, he rarely grants interviews. But he told Sean of his deep respect for Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

"I like black and white," Thomas said. "I like clarity. I like passion. People pick on Pelini because he gets upset. I watched the Super Bowl and I watched (Jim and John Harbaugh) get upset.

"I also like honesty. I like the way (Pelini) tries to get these kids involved with the whole program — to take care of your stuff off the field and take care of your business in the classroom."

Thomas, who grew up in Georgia, became a Husker football fan in large part because of his in-laws' passion for the program. His wife, Virginia Lamp Thomas, is an Omaha native.

Thomas, in the book, recounted the day in 1995 when Tom Osborne invited him to speak to the Huskers for the first time. Thomas remembers Osborne explaining to him why he was going to keep Lawrence Phillips on the team despite the I-back's legal problems.

Recalled Thomas: "(Osborne) said, 'If you take away football from him, we have no leverage to at least try to get him to do well. This kid has nothing else — no family, nothing. Football is everything. I think I owe it to him to try to help him, and I know I'm going to catch grief for it.'"

Thomas said he thought, "Wow." The conversation enhanced Thomas' passion for the program, and perhaps shifted his thoughts to that little town east of Lincoln.

THE NO-HUDDLE

These games are key

The obvious: No. 20 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0). Sitting next to me is a preseason magazine that picked Missouri to finish sixth in the seven-team SEC East. After consecutive wins against division foes Georgia and Florida, Missouri has a two-game edge in the standings. And by the way, please don't tell me the Tigers have had the luck of facing injury-plagued teams. Yes, they have. But bear in mind, Mizzou is winning without its best offensive player (quarterback James Franklin) and top defender (cornerback E.J. Gaines). The Tigers have a great chance to win again Saturday and enhance what has become one of the most intriguing storylines of this season.

The not-so-obvious: Northwestern (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten) at Iowa (4-3, 1-2): The league's darling team entering the season — or so it seemed — the Wildcats are staring at the possibility of being overwhelmed by the Big Ten meat-grinder. Beating Iowa will be very difficult, as Ohio State just learned. Northwestern's final four games: at Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and at Illinois. The Wildcats' first two league games this year, against toughies Ohio State and Wisconsin, clearly took a toll.

Heisman watch

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama

WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

Keep an eye on: Jameis Winston. Did you happen to see television coverage of the Florida State freshman quarterback addressing teammates in the locker room right before the Seminoles' stunning 51-14 dismantling of Clemson in Death Valley? He was calm. Smiling. In total control of the situation. Wow. Just wow. He then jumped to the forefront of the Heisman chase, alongside Mariota, by completing 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns (with one interception) against the flummoxed Tigers. FSU is for real, folks. And so is Winston.

Thumbs up, down

Thumbs up to Jeremy Gallon, Michigan wide receiver. Nebraska standout Kenny Bell was in awe of Gallon's performance Saturday against Indiana's awful defense (14 catches for a Big Ten-record 369 yards). "Unbelievable," Bell said. "Hats off to that guy. That's just insane." No wonder Bell was in awe: Gallon's 369 yards were more than any Nebraska receiver has this season.

Thumbs down to the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Yeah, I know, easy target. But lemme get this straight: USC incurred more scholarship losses (30) than the cases of Ohio State, Oregon and Miami combined. Trojans athletic director Pat Haden is rightfully perplexed by Miami's punishment.

Numbers crunch

10. Number of sacks Northwestern has allowed in the last two games. Are we seeing a meltdown in Evanston?

Five to go

It's ridiculous the way John Q. Public and most media evaluate coaches. Seems just yesterday Steve Sarkisian was a "hot" name for job openings (i.e., USC). With Washington mired in a three-game skid, he's now on the proverbial hot seat. Bizarre. Meanwhile, here are five coaches thriving at the season's midway point, prime candidates for coach of the year. Their jobs are safe. For now, anyway:

Art Briles, Baylor. What he has orchestrated in Waco, Texas, is nothing short of miraculous. That said, this year's schedule has been cream-puff soft to this point.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 7-0 (4-0 Big 12) and are playing nasty defense along with their usual potent offense. Kingsbury, in his first season in charge, is only 34 years old.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State. Meyer is 19-0 at OSU. The record for best start at a school is 20-0, by Terry Bowden at Auburn from 1993-94.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn. With due respect to Gary Pinkel at Missouri, these Tigers are 6-1 (3-1 SEC) after a 3-9 finish last season. Malzahn may not be content to labor in Alabama's shadow.

Nick Saban, Alabama. Did you really think I'd leave the best coach in the nation off this list?

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.


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