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Nebraska football, first day of spring practice, 3/4

Assistant Bob Elliott watches a spring practice last March in Lincoln. Elliott died Saturday after complications from cancer.

He knew the coach only for a few months, but when he woke up Sunday morning to the news he hadn't seen coming, JoJo Domann felt the loss of a person who needed little time to leave an impression.

It was a few months earlier when Bob Elliott, having just arrived on the scene in Lincoln, picked out Domann as one of Nebraska's rising safeties. "He's got some natural football about him," Elliott had said of the sophomore.

It meant a lot to Domann. That was his new position coach, a guy with 36 years in the profession, saying that.

That was in late March. Elliott seemed energized by his new job on Nebraska's staff. He was active on the field, running down guys to give instructions. He was just as involved with his players off the field, Domann said.

"I know how much time and effort he put into me as a person. I know he did that with every other single guy he interacted with. That's why he had such a big impact in the short time he was here, because he cared just so much about the players.

"Obviously all coaches care about the players, but with him, it was just different."

Elliott was there for Domann when he suffered an ACL tear injury too, which interrupted a promising spring, and perhaps forced a redshirt season in 2017.

But after spring ball, as Husker coaches prepared to go out recruiting, Domann and others on the team noticed Elliott wasn't around. They knew of his health issues of the past and obviously something wasn't right again.

The details, though, weren't clear.

"We knew that he was battling. We texted him. I sent him a text," Domann said. "We just didn't know how serious. I knew the coaching staff didn't know much."

Even when Elliott was moved to an off-field analyst's position in June, and Scott Booker was promoted to coach the safeties, Domann and others were excited about the prospects of Elliott lending his football knowledge.

So this weekend's news was a shock to Domann — finding out that Elliott had passed away at age 64 of complications from cancer.

With the sadness, Domann also recognized how special it was that a person like Elliott could make such a mark on people in limited time.

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"It's a wake-up call. Life's precious, man," Domann said. "Even somebody that was only with us three or four months, he became family in that time span. I know I'm not the only one who feels that way in that locker room."

That impact was clear on Sunday as several Husker defenders who hadn't even known of Elliott as recently as February sent out heartfelt messages to remember him.

"...Even that short time that was spent, it meant a lifetime," tweeted Husker senior cornerback Chris Jones.

It's why many who knew Elliott will gather on Saturday morning in Iowa City for a celebration of life ceremony.

It was his leadership and high character, Domann is sure, that made players connect with him like they did.

"He just completely changed my mindset and my drive and motivation for something so much greater than I was once going for," Domann said. "Having somebody at this level that believes in you ... it was huge for me.

"Having a guy like that who has been around the block, who coached the No. 1 defense in the nation, I learned so many things from him in the film room and on the field. It's just something I can't replace and I don't want to replace."

So he won't. Those lessons of the past few months will stick.

"I'm going to take everything he taught me, what he told me, everything we did in the film room and on the field, and apply it to my everyday life and when I get back on the field next year."

Briefly

Nebraska's Drew Brown is one of 30 kickers on the Lou Groza award watch list, which goes to the nation's top kicker at the end of the season.

Brown made 12-of-14 field-goal attempts last season, including a career-long of 51 yards against Purdue. The senior also was a perfect 38-for-38 on PATs.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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