TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

Out of the chute, congratulations to Boone Central grad Wyatt Mazour, who is now also a proud graduate of the University of Nebraska.
Mazour was one of six Husker football players – and 18 Nebraska athletes – who received their diplomas this past Saturday.
That’s a heck of an accomplishment. It’s challenging enough for any student to earn a college degree in 4-5 years these days. But, when you add the time commitment and demands of major college athletics, it can be daunting.
I don’t think anyone who knows Wyatt is suprised by his latest achievement, however. When he sets out to do something, it gets done. When presented with obstacles, he finds a way over, around or through them.
On the field, off the field. Football, school, life. Wyatt Mazour is an achiever.
Optimism High As Season Nears
I wanted to mention Wyatt and the latest Husker graduates because, at this time of year, all focus seems to be on preparations for the upcoming athletic seasons. That includes, of course, football, Nebraska’s passion.
Optimism is probably the keyword for 2019 if you talk to fans around the state and nation. In Coach Frost they believe, and the fires of anticipation have been stoked in recent months, locally and nationally.
Phil Steele named Nebraska his choice for the nation’s “most improved” team in ‘19, predicting the Huskers to win 10 games in his annual football forecast magazine. Nebraska was voted to win the B1G West Division at conference media days. Several national pundits chimed in and also predicted big things ahead for the Huskers. And the latest – Nebraska was ranked 24th in the AP Preseason Top 25 released Monday. It’s the first Top 25 ranking for the program in five years.
All this after a 4-8 season!
Newspapers, online media and radio shows have all had positive reports from Nebraska’s fall camp, with video clips and tweets building the fanfare. I won’t rehash here the anticipated Blackshirt improvement, Adrian Martinez’s Heisman Trophy credentials, improved squad depth, strength and conditioning gains, the reboot of the once-renowned walkon program. You’ve likely read and heard plenty about those subjects.
The Program
However, Mitch Sherman posted a new article on The Athletic that got my attention – big time. He took a more in-depth look at The Program’s work with the Nebraska football team this past offseason and visited with The Program’s founder Eric Kapitulik.
The Program? Some of you may have seen Scott Frost’s video tweet of the experience in June or caught a brief article about it around that time. For those unfamiliar with The Program, it’s a leadership development and team building service started by Kapitulik, a former special operations and infantry officer in the U.S. Marines, along with being an ultramarathoner and triathlete.
It is intense. Certainly not for the faint of heart. It is also effective. In the past 11 years, The Program has grown rapidly and now works with over 160 college and pro sports teams, corporations and organizations. Frost met Kapitulik while an assistant coach at Oregon, when the Ducks utilized The Program.
Not only does Frost believe in The Program, bringing it to Central Florida and now Nebraska, he and Kapitulik have become close friends. They vacationed together in Africa. They hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim. They formed a tight bond and have worked together every offseason since 2010.
“Zebras hang out with zebras, and lions hang out with lions,” Kapitulik told Sherman. You can probably figure out which Kapitulik and Frost consider themselves.
The Program came to Lincoln for the second year in mid-June. Husker players raved about their experience, which defines roles for “leaders” and “teammates.”
Kapitulik, 46, said the changes in Nebraska’s culture in 12 months were just as dramatic as what he witnessed at UCF in 2016-17
“It made me nervous,” he told Sherman. “It’s almost easier if we’ve got to go to work on a lot of things. We’re standing there after two days and our guys are like, ‘Is the culture really this strong?’ But Frost has shown it in the past. We know him, and we know this staff. So I can’t say I was surprised.”
Got some Big Red goosebumps yet?
Kapitulik went on to define the principles of The Program and why Frost is such a strong leader.
“We have one mission – to develop better leaders and create more cohesive teams,” he explained. “We have to have better leaders, and we need to develop people to become better leaders. But as important as having good leaders is ensuring we have great teammates.
“Warriors want high standards, not just on a football team, in any situation. Great teammates meet the organization’s standards, and then they hold their teammates accountable to achieving those standards.
“We talk about this a lot – to let our passion be mission driven, not emotion driven. Scott is mission driven. He’s so passionate about Nebraska football, but he doesn’t let himself get emotional.”
What has that mission driven leadership developed here in Lincoln? Kapitulik described what he told Frost in a recent follow-up visit.
“I told him, Frosty, ‘Our guys are brutally honest, but it ain’t gonna be brutal this year. Why? Because your leaders have a high care factor.’ They want to get better.
“It’s not cool here this year to not be bought in. It’s not cool to cut corners anymore. It’s not cool to not give your hundred percent every day. That tone, those standards are not set by The Program. That’s set by the head coach and his staff.”
So, ready to run through the proverbial wall yet?
Well, if that doesn’t have your Big Red blood pumping, I’ll close with one final tidbit from Sherman’s article that might do the trick.
When asked specifically about sophomore QB Martinez and his leadership qualities, Kapitulik responded with the following.
“I’m not a man of superlatives. So I’m not going to say any one person is the best leader we work with all year. I just don’t say that,” he told Sherman. “I’ll say this about Adrian: He’s one of the three best guys we’ll work with out of 160 collegiate, professional and corporate teams. Call it 10,000 people. Yeah, he’s one of the top three.”
Whoa! I mean, I think we all expect big things from 2AM, but whoa! That’s a big – a huge! – endorsement.
Now, are you ready for some football?
I began by congratulating Wyatt Mazour on his graduation. I’ll end by saying I can picture Wyatt fitting right in with the new Nebraska culture as a great leader and teammate.
It sounds like we have an entire roster of Huskers embracing the necessary traits and culture, pushing each other to be the best team they can be.
Tell you what … I’m ready for some football!