Senior class looks to leave lasting legacy

2012-08-31T23:55:00Z 2012-10-27T02:49:58Z Senior class looks to leave lasting legacyBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Wasn’t it just the other day they were moving the futon and mini fridge into the Selleck dorm?

Cameron Meredith recently found himself thinking about those days when it began and time was their friend. How in the heck did they all get from there to here in such quick fashion?

Seniors now. One final season in their Husker journey.

It’s one of life’s truths: Clock hands move too fast.

Better to put the attention on something you can control. To that, the defensive end has some ideas.

“I want to go out with a bang,” Meredith said.

It’s a succinct way of describing the MO of this Husker senior class, a group of veterans hoping all the highs and lows of the past few years are the precursor to a thunderous finale, the kind of year where the program rejoins the elite and the seniors leave a lasting legacy.

It is a large senior class — 30 players, and 24 of them fifth-year seniors.

Seniors who have survived all those twist and turns — some exhilarating wins, some head-shaking letdowns and two nights in Dallas when Nebraska came within a combined four points of championships.

Burkhead, Compton, Cotton, Fisher, Maher, Martin, Meredith, Reed, Smith, Steinkuhler, Whaley.

Guys who know only Bo Pelini as their Husker head coach. This is the first Pelini team where everyone on the roster can say that. And best believe there is a certain pride in that, especially among the fifth-year seniors.

“We've seen what this program is about over the last four years, so it's in our bloodstream,” explains Ben Cotton.

And now?

Well, now they want what every senior class wants.

Now they want the payoff.

“I’ve prepared myself every day up until now to win a championship,” said linebacker Alonzo Whaley. “That’s what this program, as far as football, has been based on, is we need to win a championship. We’re going to win a championship. Not, ‘Can we win a championship?’ My mind-set is we’re going to win a championship. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Enter another senior linebacker. Will Compton. See him at Big Ten Media Days a month ago, speaking passionately about this senior class leaving a legacy.

“We want to bring it back,” Compton said. “We want to be known as that group.”

In the days before Saturday’s opener against Southern Miss, Compton’s fire burned just as hot, speaking about the tough losses of the past and possibilities of the future.

“We let ourselves down, we let our fans down these past few years, and we’ve got to get it done,” he said. “We have a sense of urgency to get it done. We just want to leave our mark just like every senior class does. And it’s our job to keep that focus and that even-keel mentality throughout the season, whether it be Game 1 or Game 10. We have to stay the grind, stay the course, stay the process.”

Process.

It’s a word commonly used by Pelini.

It’s a word that has been preached to the seniors since they signed on the dotted line. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when they use it themselves.

That’s part of the reason this senior class thinks it has what it takes to provide the kind of leadership needed to push the Huskers over the hump.

Cotton told of how veterans were teaching younger players in meeting rooms this offseason more than ever before, attention going to every guy on the roster.

The thinking: Everyone, even those who won't see a snap this fall, must be on board to end a 13-year conference championship drought.

“We've had guys doing extra stuff every day on both offense and defense,” Cotton said. “Guys are catching balls. Guys are doing drill work, footwork, all the little things. It might be five or 10 minutes every day, but you add that up over two 10-week offseason sessions and it can really accumulate into something special."

Along with that overtime work have come some looks in the mirror.

“We figured out it’s more than just football rather than, ‘Let’s just line up on Saturday and try to beat somebody,’” Whaley said. “We went back to the basics to grow and become a better team before we try to stand out and beat somebody else.”

That sounds good.

Previous senior classes have sounded good, of course. Even the 2007 senior class sounded good in August, using the words “national championship” while breaking fall camp huddles.

They'll have to do more than just sound good. Husker seniors know the proof must come between the lines, starting Saturday.

But if you’re going to try to leave a lasting memory, better to do it in the company of friends.

“The friendships got stronger as the years went by, but ever since we were in that Selleck dorm, all of us kind of connected in a weird certain way,” Meredith said. “We’ve all stuck together through all this.”

A lot of shared memories on that journey. Good ones, bad ones.

But what of the final chapter?

Time to write it.

“This means a lot to us,” Meredith said. “I think we can leave a lasting attitude that Nebraska is back.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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