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5A Division II Championship Football

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong (10) made a lot of big plays for Cibolo Steele during his high school career. After only a few weeks with the Huskers, it appears he could do the same in Lincoln.

His name itself sends the imagination jumping, doesn’t it?

Tommy Armstrong is what a fiction writer would call his quarterback. And that writer would probably make that quarterback hail from some town such as Cibolo, Texas.

So there’s that.

Then there’s this: Everyone loves a backup quarterback and everyone loves a fresh face.

And when you fall into both of those categories and are named Armstrong, well, shoot. Just see where imaginations might run.

You read and hear stories of young-gun quarterbacks every year, of course. Often enough, it's more hype than substance.

But Nebraska's new guy is giving off early signs that he has some of the latter.

It’s early, much too early, to say what type of player Armstrong will be, but he at least knows how to make a really good first impression.

“He’s a stud. He’s a phenomenal player. He’s going to be a great quarterback here,” said sophomore wide receiver Kenny Bell.

“He’s got a moxie about him, a mojo,” said longtime Husker assistant Ron Brown.

“The kid looks older than a freshman out there, if you were to ask me,” said junior right tackle Jeremiah Sirles.

Flattery is fine and good. Pushing veterans for prominent spots on the depth chart is better.

In regard to that, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound true freshman has done enough in these early weeks of fall camp to have his name in the mix for the backup quarterback job behind Taylor Martinez.

The fact he’s already in that discussion, battling more experienced players such as Brion Carnes and Ron Kellogg III, is a considerable first step.

“To be only here a few months and only be in camp a few weeks and understand the offense the way Tommy Armstrong understands our offense, it blows my mind,” Bell said.

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“He does a great job of just taking over the huddle and saying, ‘This is what’s going on.’ And for him to know the checkdowns and what play we’re checking to — because our offense is high-tempo, high-speed — we’re checking things all the time. For him to be able to run the offense with the poise he does is impressive.”

Kellogg said Armstrong has shown an eagerness to learn all he could from the moment he arrived in Lincoln this summer.

“He’s like a little brother to Taylor and I,” Kellogg said. “It’s awesome to see how he started from Day 1 of camp to where he’s at now.”

Kellogg said the older quarterbacks keep Armstrong on his toes, sometimes firing random questions at the freshman in the meeting room to see if he’s keeping up with his playbook.

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has described Armstrong as “a student of the game” who seems to have that “it” factor.

The quarterback has picked up the offense quicker than Beck expected.

But the conversation about the No. 2 quarterback behind Martinez remains. And with it, the question of whether Armstrong will redshirt this year or not.

The answer is one Beck appears to want to have pretty soon.

“To have a guy kind of half-in, I don’t think you can do that,” Beck said after Thursday’s practice.

Whether he plays or not this season, Armstrong has already made inroads in winning over his older teammates, something that is not always easy for a young quarterback to do.

“He commands a lot of respect in the huddle,” Sirles said. “And I think a lot of the older guys also understand that you have to give him that respect at the quarterback position."

That doesn't mean those veterans won't get in his ear on occasion.

"If he starts messing up," Sirles said, "there’s got to be those older guys that will be there and say, ‘Hey, you know what you gotta do.’ Pull him up. I’ve done that a few times with him and Brion.

"You've got to be able to tell the guy, 'You can't go in the dumps. We’re following you. We’re behind you. You lead, I’ll follow.'"

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

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