As Nebraska's current quarterback wearing No. 13 warmed up a few yards away, one of NU's favorites to wear the number stood with his back to the field and soaked it in.
Zac Taylor, in Lincoln for the first time since his playing days, took his time while greeting fans and old friends. Posed for pictures. Looked around the stadium. Chatted with Mike Riley. Said hello to an acquaintance on Northern Illinois' coaching staff.
And did it all with a smile on his face.
"It's awesome. It's a weird feeling. I really didn't have any expectations. I just kind of wanted to get here and live in the moment," Taylor said before Saturday's kickoff. "But it's really neat to come out here and see all the fans and watch the team play."
The 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year returned to the Midwest as an inductee into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. It's an unlikely honor, Taylor said. Sort of like his path to stardom at NU in 2005 and 2006.
"Shocked. I never in a million years — all the great champions and players they've had here, I never pictured this happening for me. It's a great honor and I'm really thankful for it."
Taylor threw for 3,197 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2006, becoming the first NU quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. He helped lead the Huskers to the Big 12 North Division title that year, and connected with Maurice Purify for the game-winning touchdown in a 28-27 win over Texas A&M on a play that still burns brightly in Husker fans' minds.
The only drama Taylor had to deal with 11 years later was whether he would be able to get away from work to attend the game. Taylor is now an assistant wide receivers coach for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, who host Washington on Sunday.
Rams head coach Sean McVay wouldn't let Taylor miss his moment.
"My head coach is a stud. He found out about this, and I never imagined I'd be able to miss a walk-through and come to this deal," Taylor said. "But he insisted and set it all up for me, so I'm real appreciative of that."
Taylor arrived in Lincoln at midnight Friday, too late to attend a dinner for the inductees, but in plenty of time to be at Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning. He hopped on a plane for Los Angeles shortly after the game ended.
On Sunday, Taylor will meet up with his college coach. Bill Callahan is the assistant head coach and offensive line coach for Washington.
Before that, though, Taylor was eager to watch current NU quarterback Tanner Lee. He was so busy renewing old acquaintances before the game he didn't have time to watch Lee warm up.
"I still haven't seen him throw a football," Taylor said. "But I've heard great things about him, he's an easy guy to pull for, and I look forward to watching have a great year."
Taylor was inducted into the hall of fame along with former Huskers Chad Kelsey, Donnie McGhee and Randy Theiss, and former Wayne State player Brad Ottis.
"As a coach, you're worried about your own team," Taylor said. "But I always pull for (the Huskers). I pull for the coaches. They've got a great staff. And I look forward to seeing them play today."
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