Nebraska football coach Scott Frost's players may not know much about his time as a Husker quarterback since most of them weren't alive back then.
Granted, YouTube helps. You can easily find clips of Frost leading the Huskers in 1996 and 1997 as an intelligent and rugged player. But it would be hard to find footage of Frost grinding through August workouts in the 1990s. Understand this: He was relentless.
It also would be difficult to find footage of Frost pushing through weight-room workouts with his Husker teammates. He was, well, a freak in that regard.
It seems like something his players should know, particularly as they grind through the early stages of preseason camp.
In addition to his physical prowess, Frost was a leader in the weight room, says Boyd Epley, Nebraska's strength and conditioning coach during the program's glory days and now an assistant athletic director.
"Scott was born with natural power — extreme power," Epley says.
It showed up most when Frost did the hang clean, where a lifter pulls a bar from the ground in an upward thrust to raise it above his chest.
Epley says Frost, as a senior at Nebraska in 1997, raised eyebrows when he chose to clean 300 pounds during the team's physical testing.
"I don't think we had any quarterback ever do 300 pounds in the hang clean for one rep — ever," Epley says. "Not only did he get five reps, then six, then seven, then eight, then nine — he got 10 reps with 300 pounds.
"I don't think we had anyone on the team that could do 300 pounds for 10 reps."
Think about that for a second. Nebraska won all the marbles that season. It had Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom. It had Chad Kelsay and Jay Foreman. Ahman Green and Joel Makovicka. But it was Frost who led everyone in the hang clean. You think teammates didn't respect that? You think his current players wouldn't respect it?
Frost was one of 10 former Nebraska football players named last week to the Husker Power 50-Year Team.
"It was a tough decision," Epley says. "Of course, we had a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Eric Crouch. So it was difficult to put someone ahead of a Heisman winner. But even though Crouch was a pretty hard worker, he had a lot of injuries. And he was not a leading factor in the weight room like Scott was.
"Scott was the leader of the team."
The 72-year-old Epley settled into his chair Saturday morning, his office situated across a hall from the Nebraska ticket office, which is across the street from Memorial Stadium on the west side. Oh, the stories Boyd can tell. I mean, the man has five national championship rings.
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Oh, the stories he did tell Saturday, like of the time former Nebraska running back Mike Rozier, the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, ran a 40-yard dash naked in Schulte Field House because he thought zero clothing would help improve his time. Epley notes Husker women athletes weren't allowed in Schulte because the entrance was a bit too close to the locker room.
We'll be hearing more from Epley this month as Nebraska celebrates 50 years of strength and conditioning, culminating with a private shindig Aug. 30, the night before NU's opener against South Alabama. This will be a wonderful time for Epley, initially hired in 1969 by legendary Bob Devaney to start the strength and conditioning program.
Frost wraps his arms around this part of Nebraska football history. Last month in Chicago, he remembered the days when the Journal Star published leaders of the Huskers' physical testing. Epley used to gather reporters following football practice to go over results.
"It was competitive, it was impressive and it was a big deal," Frost says of testing back then.
I'm always sort of interested — and dismayed — when younger Nebraska fans express displeasure when someone recalls certain elements of Nebraska football's glory days. "Here we go again, back into the ’90s," they say.
On the flip side, I'm always interested in those discussions because that's when the program operated like a big, nasty machine. Think Alabama and Clemson of today. Frost has said he's trying to use as many of Tom Osborne's methods as possible. Wise move.
The practices often were rigorous affairs under Tom. Epley recalls the first day of preseason camp in August 1997 as being especially intense. Nebraska in 1996 had come up short of winning the national championship, in large part because the Huskers were outfoxed by Texas coach John Mackovic in the Big 12 title game. Saying NU was determined to win it all in 1997 is an understatement.
"That first practice was so hard that when the team came in to lift after practice, Scott came to me and said, 'Coach, I just can't go, I'm exhausted,'" Epley says. "That had never happened before. Because he was the leader of the team, I knew something was different. Scott did what he could in the workout, but he was flat-out exhausted."
He wasn't the only one. No fewer than 12 players were on IVs immediately following the drills.
"Those players were so hungry, so intense …" says Epley, his voice trailing.
The next morning, Osborne and Epley discussed the matter. Osborne explained he added an extra station to practice. But after hearing Epley's description of the weight-room session, Osborne decided to remove that station for good.
"Scott was our barometer," Epley says.
You probably can imagine how Epley feels about Frost's coaching ability.
"Scott's a leader. He'll find a way."