They pull jokes on each other. That’s what brothers do.
They argue. That’s what brothers do.
They stick up for each other. Repeat the chorus line.
“We know we’re brothers. We’ve been through it all together,” Will Compton said. “We’re happy for each other. We get down for each other. When someone’s in a bad place we try to pick each other up.”
We? That’d be Compton, Alonzo Whaley and Sean Fisher. That’s the formalities.
Compto, ‘Zo and Fish will suffice in their room.
The Husker senior linebackers have been on this ride together for five years now -- in the same roller coaster car for all those twists and turns. Joyous wins, deflating defeats, Blackshirts, laughter, tears, broken bones, critics.
And last Saturday.
Yeah, about last Saturday. That was a pretty good day.
When you look and see the same dudes you’ve spent all that blood and sweat with inflicting damage on proud Michigan, you better pause for a few seconds amid the frenzy and take a mental snapshot.
“That’s stuff you have to cherish, because you’re not going to get it again,” Compton said. “I’m sure I’ll see those guys in the future and I’m sure they feel the same way. But you have to play like you’re never going to see each other again.”
So they did last Saturday night with the team's dream on the line.
Whaley had eight tackles, Fisher seven, including two for loss. Compton had four.
There was one series, in particular, where Fisher seemed to be wherever the guy carrying the football was, filling in at MIKE linebacker for Compton.
After the series, Compton immediately met Fisher on the sideline.
“I told him, ‘Hey, I’m happy as hell for you, bro, but man, I was over here on the sideline jealous as hell you were getting all those plays.'"
“I know,” Fisher responded. “After I made a few, I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, I know Will is over there wishing he was out here.’”
Competitors. Hey, brothers are that, too.
They’ve all had to traverse through their own speed bumps.
Compton? He broke a foot just two days before the opener in 2010, an injury that sidelined him for the first half of that season.
The guy who drove him home the day he suffered that injury? That’d be Whaley, who was replacing him in the lineup.
“Hey, I don’t even know how to feel,”’ Whaley told him on the drive.
Compton’s response: “You don’t have time to have any emotions or feeling right now. We need you to step up and be somebody you haven’t been the last couple of years.”
Whaley? He'd face his own personal challenge later.
It was just last year when he didn’t make the 105-man fall camp roster.
Whaley has been candid about the situation, saying his priorities had gotten out of whack. It all came to a head when Bo Pelini called him into his office and asked him point-blank: Do you really want to be here?
Whaley did. He started to fix himself. By the end of the year, a guy who wasn’t on the 105-man roster in August was wearing a black practice jersey.
Fisher? The Millard North grad has maybe had his resolve tested the most of the three. There was a shoulder injury his freshman year, then a broken leg two years ago.
Fisher came back last year, but wasn’t 100 percent. He didn't play the game the way he knows he can play it. Some critics spoke out.
That’s why teammates were relishing in Fisher’s show last Saturday almost as much as Fisher himself.
“He’s taken a lot of heat, but they don’t know,” Compton said. “At the end of the day, they don’t know. They try to break down his play. They don’t even know what’s going on schematic-wise. Fish has fought through his trials, man. We knew what he was capable of.”
Whaley chimes in.
“Fish has worked. He hasn’t complained,” Whaley said. “He hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time with the different offenses we’ve played, but he’s put his work in day in and day out. It’s one of those feelings that, ‘Dang, this guy is really not selfish and he does it for the team.’”
Linebackers coach Ross Els was happy about Fisher’s performance against Michigan for a couple reasons.
“It’s good when good things happen to good people who have worked hard and come back from adversity,” Els said. "All three have had that. It’s also good that now, from a team standpoint, we’re able to roll a lot of guys in.”
Fisher’s strong play at the MIKE spot has given the Huskers more options as they head down the stretch run, beginning with what is expected to be a rough-and-tumble affair at Michigan State on Saturday.
In the middle of the grind, the ability to divide snaps and keep guys fresh can prove as important as anything.
“I don’t want Compton playing 70 snaps,” Els said. “I’d like to keep him in the 50s. If Whaley can play some, and Fisher can play some, and (David) Santos can play some, keep rolling guys in that way, we’re going to be a lot fresher. They’re performing well when they’re coming in. That’s the key. If they don’t perform well, we’re not going to put them in.”
But right now they are.
The three seniors are leading the way.
Friends even when they’re competitors.
Compton smiled when asked about Fisher cutting into some of his snaps. Yeah, it maybe keeps him a little fresher. But then he said what you’d expect a competitive person to say.
“I want to be out there all the time. Everybody does. I know Fish wants to be out there. Every series, he says (to the coaches), ‘Hey, who’s up this time?’ He told me that. I said, ‘You son-of-a-gun.’ But, hey, we all want to be competitive, we all want to make the plays. That’s what you want.”
Yeah, you should be in his meeting room, Els said.
“When one guy makes a mistake, the other two are letting him know about it right away.”
Sounds like brothers.