Frost always a winner – Albion saw that early
There has yet to be a nip in the air, much less any frost warnings.
In Nebraska, however, Frost is certainly the hot topic of conversation – still.
‘Frost Mania’ has enveloped our state since the day Nebraska’s native son was named to replace Mike Riley as Husker head coach. Now that fall camp has finally arrived, Frost and Husker Fever has reached full pitch.
It’s beginning to feel like the good old days, if you can remember back, oh, about 20 or so years ago. There may not be a nip in the air, but there’s something more important. Optimism. Universal, unbridled optimism.
While there may be a skeptic or two, here or there or somewhere, I have yet to talk to anyone who doesn’t believe Scott Frost will resurrect a slumbering Husker program and bring Nebraska back to the forefront of college football’s grand stage.
There’s a reason for that. Scott Frost is a winner. Scott Frost has always been a winner.
Just about everything there is to say about Scott Frost has already been said or written. Pretty much every “frost” pun or analogy has been used to a tiresome degree. His life has been explored and examined and discussed. The Omaha World-Herald is even publishing a Frost biography.
What the hubbub, excitement and optimism all boils down to, however, is confidence. Confidence that Scott Frost is a winner. Scott Frost has always been a winner.
Nebraska fans have closely followed the unfolding Frost journey through the years. A storied high school career. A detour through Stanford, then a National Championship as Husker QB. A brief professional career. Paying dues on the sidelines, becoming a “hot” assistant for the high-flying Oregon Ducks, and emerging as a head coach who led a magical 0-12 to 13-0 turnaround at Central Florida.
A winner, through and through.
Fans in and around Albion can, like myself, remember having one of the first glimpses of the Scott Frost phenomenon. It was years ago, but for many, the memory of a high school football playoff game between our Albion Cardinals and Wood River is still pretty vivid.
I’ve long said it was one of the rare instances where I felt I watched a single player win an 11-man football game virtually singlehandedly.
The 11-man game of football is known as the ultimate team endeavor. Unlike basketball and baseball, or even the eight and six-man versions of football, it’s highly unusual to give that much credit to any one player.
Certainly we see great players who can “make the difference” between winning and losing. There are players who snatch victory from defeat with one shining moment – remember Ameer Abdullah saving Nebraska from disgrace vs. McNeese State? And there are games between evenly-matched opponents, where you point to a player and say, “if he had been on the other side, that side would have won.” Think, maybe, Boone Central/Newman Grove and Norfolk Catholic in 2014, with the Cardinals’ own amazing #20, Wyatt Mazour.
But it’s rare to witness 11-man football and come away feeling that one special player just grabbed the game by the neck and, through will and talent, rendered the verdict. That was the kind of effect Scott Frost had in that ‘90 playoff clash. As a 15-year old sophomore!
Albion had a strong team in 1990, finishing 7-3 and ranked 5th in Class C1, with a first-round playoff victory prior to hosting Wood River. The Cardinals, coached by Arnie Johnson, were driven by All-State speedsters Darren and Damon Schmadeke, led by standout QB Monte Brown, and included other post-season honorees in Matt Hageman, Chad Kahlandt, Reeve Cunningham and Scott Stopak.
Yes, Wood River had a young Scott Frost – already a standout – and his brother Steve – a senior who went on to Colorado State and Stanford – playing for their father Larry, a former Husker halfback. Area fans also had a special interest, since Scott’s mother Carol, a former Olympian and assistant coach for Wood River, was a native of Cedar Rapids.
Wood River, with the family story, was gaining state notoreity, yet Albion was nominally considered the favorite entering the ‘90 game. The Cardinals played like one for two-and-a-half quarters or so, building a 26-7 lead on Darren Schmadeke’s opening touchdown and three scores by brother Damon, including a memorable 98-yard interception return in the final seconds of the first half.
Needless to say, Card fans were pretty confident, with a 19-point lead and roughly 15 minutes remaining to be played. The next eight or so minutes were a white and purple blur, however.
In that time span, Frost scored three touchdowns, including bolts of 50 and 44 yards, and blocked an Albion punt. When the scoreboard stopped spinning, Wood River had a 35-26 lead and, with final defensive stands, toted home the stunning victory.
It was a sign of things to come. Frost would go on to quarterback Wood River to a 29-6 cumulative record his final three seasons – 24-3 vs. regular-season C1 foes – and establish new class records for total offense and touchdowns. His exploits included a 105-yard interception return touchdown vs. Burwell – a record that still stands.
He didn’t stop there, of course, eventually leading Nebraska to that 1997 National Championship, and still later, directing UCF’s remarkable 13-0 campaign in 2017.
A winner, through and through.
While looking back, I found a quote from Steve Frost regarding that 1990 playoff game in Albion.
“It was kind of at that point that Scott became Scott. He scored three touchdowns and blocked a punt. At that point, he realized he didn’t have to play football at the same speed as the rest of us.
He has a different football speed than about anybody I’ve ever seen. It just clicks for him.”
Yes, Albion and Wood River got the early glimpses of things “clicking” for Scott Frost. Husker fans, and the entire nation, have viewed many more examples as the Frost legend has grown.
Now, the native son is back. It’s his job to restore the pride of Nebraska football. It’s a huge task, and quite a burden for a young man. But could there be a better candidate?
The optimism in the air says no. Husker fans believe. We are confident it will “click.” Finally.
Yes, it’s beginning to feel like the good old days.