Freshmen getting acclimated to college football

Freshman cornerback Prince Amukamara is finding that playing football in a major college program is a time-consuming enterprise.
2007-08-09T19:00:00Z 2012-07-27T12:37:17Z Freshmen getting acclimated to college footballSTEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
August 09, 2007 7:00 pm  • 

He’s toiling a number of hours unfit for a Prince.

Not that Prince Amukamara is complaining. But the Nebraska true freshman cornerback is finding that playing football in a major college program is a time-consuming enterprise. So much so that he already has nixed any thoughts of playing basketball along with football at NU.

“I’ve never worked like this in my life,” he said. “It’s like a full-time job.”

And then some.

On Wednesday, for instance, Amukamara was up at 6 a.m. He ate breakfast with teammates, attended a team meeting, then headed off to a meeting for cornerbacks only. Then he met with academic counselors. Then off to another team meeting. Then a little weight lifting followed by another meeting. And all this before practice began at 3 p.m.

“We’re basically here from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” said Amukamara, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound native of Glendale, Ariz., and an honest-to-goodness prince — through ancestry he’s the prince of a small village in Nigeria, he said.

He’s also among a pack of Husker true freshmen adjusting to the early stages of their college careers.

For Amukamara, the large amount of time spent at the Nebraska football complex has made the biggest impression on him since his arrival in town early in the summer. Meanwhile, NU true freshman defensive end Will Yancy is continually amazed by the state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and gadgets available to Husker players. For example, a “BOD POD” to precisely measure body fat?

“You gotta be kidding,” he said, smiling.

And then there are the standard adjustments that always seem to come up among newcomers: A much thicker playbook, quicker practice tempo and veteran college players who are much bigger and faster than those high schools kids they were playing only months ago.

Prince Amukamara, meet Nebraska junior offensive tackle Lydon Murtha.

“He’s 6-foot-8 (actually 6-foot-7) and 312 pounds — and he has a six-pack,” Amukamara said, referring to Murtha’s abdominal muscles. “That’s just unheard of.”

Nebraska’s most imposing players? Yancy mentions Murtha and Murtha’s fellow offensive linemen Matt Slauson (6-5, 335), Carl Nicks (6-5, 330) and Keith Williams (6-5, 310).

“My dad said never be scared of anybody, so I have that mentality,” said the 6-4, 230-pound Yancy, also of Glendale.

Nebraska completed its fifth day of preseason practice Friday. The Huskers today will have their first two-a-day practice sessions of 2007, meaning another long day at the football complex.

Anthony Blue, a true freshman cornerback from Cedar Hill, Texas, echoed Amukamara’s sentiments about the long hours players put in during preseason camp.

“What surprised me most was the amount of meetings,” Blue said. “There are so many throughout the day. We have to manage things exactly so we’ll be on time for every meeting.”

Meanwhile, Niles Paul, a true freshman wide receiver from Omaha North, said he has been challenged by both the physical and mental aspects of major college football. For instance, he said, he studies the playbook as hard as he studies any class he’s ever taken in school.

“I have to study for two hours every night just trying to learn the offense,” he said. “There are a lot of shifts and motions and a lot of principles to remember. That’s what makes it hard.”

If he forgets a play in the huddle, Paul said, the veterans help him out. Same goes for Yancy.

“The thing that’s surprised me most is how close the team really is, and how they’ve absorbed the freshmen,” Yancy said. “The older players want to help us out, even the seniors. If we make a bad play, they pat us on the back and tell us what to do to correct it. Drill-wise, same thing. And if we make a good play, they’re always there to appreciate what we’re doing.”

Getting a firm grasp on Nebraska’s offense and defense doesn’t necessarily occur overnight because so much precision is required, especially on offense.

For instance, if Paul is running a slant pass route, he is instructed to take three steps and cut off his outside foot — every time.

“If you don’t (cut) on that third step, you’re going to get chewed,” Paul said.

Such is life on a major college team.

“It’s hard — harder than anything I’ve ever done,” Paul said of preseason drills. “This is definitely the next level of football for me.”

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

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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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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Ken grew up in Chicago and is a Doane College grad. His Mr. Sportsknowitall column appears Sundays, and he covers a variety of beats.

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Brian graduated from UNL and has covered Husker football since the Solich years. He's in his seventh year as the NU football beat writer for the Journal Star.

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