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Ryan Held (left), a former Husker, coached running backs at Central Florida under Scott Frost (right) and will coach running backs at Nebraska now.

Ryan Held had made a name for himself as a coach in the lower levels of college football when in late 2015 he received a call from Scott Frost.

It was time for a career boost.

Frost wanted his former Nebraska teammate to join his first-year coaching staff at Central Florida.

Held, the head coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2014 and 2015, jumped at the chance to go to UCF, but there was one problem.

He had to quickly learn Frost's fast-paced spread offense.

"When we first started, it was like I was a freshman back at Nebraska," Held said Tuesday night on the Husker Sports Network's "Sports Nightly" radio program. "I had my wife testing me on things — you know, different signals and what is this and what is that.

"I had to start over. The first year (in 2016) was learning a lot and learning on the run."

Central Florida was 6-7 in 2016 after finishing 0-12 in 2015 during the final year of George O'Leary's tenure. This season, UCF leads the nation in scoring (49.4 points per game) and takes a 12-0 record into the Peach Bowl on New Year's Day.

Frost on Dec. 3 was formally introduced as Nebraska's head coach. After coaching UCF in the bowl game, Frost immediately will begin working full time at NU along with his entire coaching staff from UCF — including Held as running backs coach.

As was the case in 2015, Held jumped at the chance to coach with Frost, this time at their alma mater.

"When I was a little kid growing up (in Kansas City, Missouri), Nebraska was my favorite team," Held said. "I was blessed to be able to have a chance to be a walk-on player in the 1990s, to be a part of the three national championships as a player and as an undergrad coach in 1997 with coach (Tom) Osborne. To have a chance to come back and be part of the Big Red revival is very special.

"When I signed that contract, I can tell you I had goose bumps and tears. It was great to put on that red polo. I will never take a day for granted as long as I'm with the Huskers."

Considering his winding path in coaching, it's easy to understand why Held is grateful to be back in Lincoln. Before landing his gig at UCF, he was head coach at five schools — Peru State (2001), Oklahoma Panhandle State (2002-04), Southwestern Oklahoma State (2005-08), Highland (Kansas) Community College (2012-13) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.

The 43-year-old Held originally got to know Frost when Frost arrived on Nebraska's campus in 1995 as a transfer quarterback from Stanford. Held was a receiver throughout 1995 and played the early part of the 1996 season before becoming an undergrad coach for the second half of the season, as well as for all of 1997.

Nowadays, Held is regarded highly for his ability as a recruiter, his work in that area paying off last Wednesday in the form of Arizona Western Community College standout running back Greg Bell's signature on the early national signing day. 

"I think we have good players at the running back position currently on the team, but we have to go out and get guys who will come in and compete," said Held, adding, "As we build this thing, we have to get weapons, and (Bell) is a weapon who can help the Nebraska running game."

Held spoke from Atlanta, where UCF is preparing to play Auburn (10-3) in the bowl game Monday. As is the case with essentially all of Nebraska's new coaches, Held has had a whirlwind December while coaching the Knights and recruiting for the Huskers.

"Everybody who knows me knows that I love recruiting — that's my baby," Held said. "Whatever it takes in terms of traveling, I'll go to Alaska, I don't care, if that's what it takes."

He told of a recent stretch when he was in Kansas one day and Dallas and San Francisco the next.

"Then I got to my hotel in Phoenix at 1 in the morning," he said. "I had to get up the next morning at 5 and drive three hours to another place in Arizona. That's just what it takes. Recruiting is hard. If you're not willing to do the extra phone call, the extra text message. …

"When I'm sitting at a stop light, I get anxiety because I want to send two more text messages to recruits because I feel like another coach is going to beat me. So I have to do all the little things that's going to put Nebraska in position to be successful. I'm willing to do that.

"If you're not willing to do that, it's hard to get players. Everybody on our staff is willing to do that."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

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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