Warren Sapp (right) talks with John Parrella during the first day of Raiders training camp in 2004.

Nebraska football coach Mike Riley no doubt anticipates the question.

What makes him confident John Parrella will be an effective recruiter?

After all, Parrella -- unofficially the new Husker defensive line coach -- has zero experience recruiting at the FBS level.

I know how I would answer the question.

The 46-year-old Parrella is a Grand Island Central Catholic graduate who went on to play at an All-Big Eight level in 1992 as a defensive tackle at Nebraska, after walking on as a tight end. He has a passion for the program -- passion that's essentially part of his DNA. If you're passionate about something, it becomes especially easy to sell it. Prospects and those close to prospects -- parents, guardians, girlfriends, coaches, et al -- will feel Parrella's passion.

Parrella's credibility as a former elite player also will help in recruiting. He may not be the type to push his 12-year NFL playing career on prospects, but he can let them know about it in a subtle manner. The other NU coaches can help in that regard.

Parrella's credibility also will be important in day-to-day teaching of players. Don't underestimate that part. Granted, there have been numerous great coaches who didn't play the game at a high level. But having a coach with a dozen years of NFL experience -- Parrella was an "undersized technician," as Damon Benning puts it -- on his resume always gets players' attention.

What's more, Parrella is personable and well-spoken -- "a good worker with people," former Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride told me recently. McBride has followed Parrella's career closely, including his time at Division II Northern Michigan, and says he's done well as a recruiter. I tend to trust Charlie.

What's more, Parrella obviously possesses an acute understanding of the level of athlete needed to win championships in a Power-Five program.

And, finally, Parrella seems to "get it" when it comes to recruiting. That's the impression he left recently when I called him about the Nebraska vacancy. He was guarded in his comments -- politely declining to discuss any potential interest in the job. He had a challenging job to do at Northern Michigan, he said.

But, speaking in general terms about recruiting, he said, "It hardly ever ends. You could be on vacation and you have to stay in contact with kids. It's a full-time job."

There will be immediate urgency at Nebraska, as defensive linemen are a pressing priority for the class of 2017 — up to a half-dozen of them. The Huskers need two snarling, disruptive tackles, and perhaps three. Same goes for the end positions. The Huskers need to hit a home run in that part of the class.

I'm betting Parrella understands the challenge, and will respond accordingly.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


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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