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Terence Crawford

Terence Crawford, with Jamie Belt at his side (right), celebrates beating Ricky Burns in their WBO lightweight title bout in 2014.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

Jamie Belt spent the past three years training Nebraska football players as an assistant Husker strength coach.

Although he wasn't retained by new Nebraska head football strength coach Zach Duval, Belt remains in an extremely intense environment — as a trainer for world champion boxer Terence "Bud" Crawford of Omaha.

"I'm back with him," Belt says with excitement in his voice.

A Lincoln resident, Belt is now working full time with Crawford and members of Crawford's stable of fighters in Omaha. Action is heating up because Crawford — the 2017 ESPN.com fighter of the year — is scheduled to take on welterweight world titlist Jeff Horn of Australia on April 15 in Las Vegas.

Although the fight has not been officially announced, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN last week it is now agreed to on both sides. It will be the main event of a pay-per-view card Top Rank is putting on in conjunction with ESPN as part of their long-term deal.

Crawford opens full-fledged training camp this week.

Even though Belt was still working for Nebraska this past August — when Crawford thrilled a packed Pinnacle Bank Arena with a knockout of Julius Indongo — Belt and Crawford were in talks about Belt returning to Crawford's gym on a full-time basis. For nearly eight years, starting when Crawford was in his late teens, Belt played a prominent role in the fighter's training.

"He's asked me to come back several times when I was at Nebraska, and I politely turned him down," Belt said. "Over the last year and a half, I missed being a part of it. I missed going to training camp. I missed out on three or four fights. Now we're jumping to a bigger weight class (147 pounds) and he told me he wants me back even more."

Which means the 34-year-old Belt himself had better be in top condition.

"I do everything with him," Belt said. "When he's running, I'm running. He follows me through everything. That's what I've done since I've known him. I'll try to get in as good a shape as I can so I can push him through the first week or two of camp, and then he'll blow right past me on everything from there on.

"I've gone to training camps at 185 pounds and came home at about 160."

Sounds like a good workout plan. But please don't try it at home.

* Perhaps you noticed the 30-year-old Crawford playing for Team Lakers in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday in Los Angeles. He had nine points and 12 rebounds, flashing the sort of athleticism reserved for, well, world champions.

Yeah, it made Belt nervous.

"I was really worried," he said. "But he wasn't playing like I've seen him play in the past. He wasn't bouncing around as much. He was smart."

Belt added, "I told him that I'd be awfully pissed if someone from the Disney channel runs into his knee."

* You don't think human beings are extremely complex creatures? Well, consider the pressure on the Nebraska men's basketball team to stockpile wins to enhance its NCAA Tournament profile, then consider this comment from sophomore forward Isaiah Roby following Sunday's 72-66 loss at Illinois: "I guess we're not good enough to turn it on and off in practice and in games. So we need to come to practice the same way we want to play."

Husker head coach Tim Miles, in his post-game comments, lamented a string of poor practices that bled into Sunday. Yes, it seems inexplicable. On the other hand, I've seen letdowns happen to even the greatest teams coached by the best in the business.

Let's see how well Miles' crew rebounds Tuesday night against an Indiana team that has won four straight games.

By the way, let's table the "No Sit Sunday" talk for now.

* You wonder if the pressure to win is affecting Nebraska players. You wonder because the Huskers closed the game by missing 14 of their final 18 field-goal attempts. They also were shaky from the free-throw line — 10-for-18 on the day, or 55.6 percent.

* Miles' decision to play zone slowed Illinois in the second half, but it also slowed Nebraska in that it became a half-court contest. The Huskers could've used a few more easy baskets in transition to find some rhythm and energy, but instead were mired in a slow-down game. In such a contest, players often have too much time to think about what's going wrong instead of letting their instincts take over.

OK, I'll go back to being a sports writer now.

* The Nebraska baseball team's impressive 3-1 start comes despite a .202 team batting average. That sort of struggle can be excused on opening weekend for obvious reasons. But Darin Erstad's offense will be watched closely because of its failings at the plate in recent postseasons.

"The thing we're really trying to do is specialize — each guy," he said recently. "What's your role? Who are you? We're really locking in on roles to get guys ready."

That's a plan. Always have a plan.

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

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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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