Sports

TIMEOUT with Joe Flanagan

It has been a treat for Cardinal fans to follow the journey of hometown hero Wyatt Mazour.
From precocious youngster to college graduate. From high school wunderkind to Nebraska walkon to scholarship recipient and gameday contributor.
In many ways, it’s the Husker fairy tale. A script dreamed by thousands of young Nebraska athletes, attempted by quite a few, but ultimately achieved by only a select number.
It’s no easy road.
Will. Determination. Focus. Drive. Effort.
Perseverance.
Some of the key attributes that separate those select achievers, allowing them to reach the end of the rainbow and the rewards that await.
For Wyatt, it’s been a long and bumpy journey, though it seemed to flash by in the blink of an eye.
It’s so easy to remember 2014. To close your eyes and call up visions of #20 flitting and darting across the emerald expanse of Memorial Stadium, leading Boone Central to it’s second state championship under Coach Arnie Johnson. The coronation to cap a career unparalleled in Cardinal history.
In just a few days, however, Wyatt, now wearing #37, will race into Memorial Stadium with his teammates, beginning his fifth and final Husker season. A culmination of the will, determination, focus, drive, effort and perseverance that have carried him through the ups and downs, twists and turns.
No, not everyone completes the journey successfully. Wyatt, with a heart that pumps Big Red and a will as large as Memorial Stadium, defied the odds and now reaps the rewards of his unflagging effort.
With Scott Frost’s cutlture in place, this is a highly anticipated season. It’s Wyatt Mazour’s moment. It’s our enjoyment.
Recently, Wyatt was gracious enough to take time from his busy schedule and preparation for the 2019 season kickoff to do a remote interview of sorts. His thoughts reflect some of the experiences of this Husker fairy tale story.
Wyatt is a role model all youngsters would do well to emulate – in athletics, in school, in life. A young man we, as fans, can appreciate and admire.
#20. #37. #1 to many of us.
Wyatt, it seems like just yesterday we were watching you run around fields in Northeast Nebraska and in that memorable state championship game – now you’re about to begin your final season as a Husker, with your college diploma in hand. Has it sunk in yet that this is your final year in the Husker program and just how quickly it seems to have gone?
“Honestly, it hasn’t really hit me yet, and I don’t think it will until the season is over. I’m a guy that takes things one day at a time, so once that day finally hits me, I imagine it will be a tough one that makes me truly reflect on the time I spent here. With that being said, time really has flown by since I was a young, eager freshman on campus. It’s funny because you hear it all the time, ‘enjoy it now because time flies,’ but you don’t really understand until you see the end of the road. I’m really excited for this year and I’m just trying to enjoy every moment with my teammates, coaches and the fans.”
From all we, as fans, see and hear, it seems like we’re watching the start of a new chapter in Nebraska football unfold. Yet, it seems a bit like deja vu, so comparable to when Coach Osborne was leading NU to championships. Can you describe the changes you’ve seen in the program from your first years to the last two with Coach Frost?
“The biggest change I’ve noticed since Coach Frost’s staff came is the culture that’s being instilled into the players. Right away, when we had our first taste of winter conditioning with the new staff, we knew that these coaches wanted guys who would give everything for the team. They give us everything they have to offer and they expect us to give everything for the team. They expect us to give them every bit of effort we have, and often lifting and conditioning really challenges us to the point where you have to dig deep and attack it. They constantly preach to attack everything we do and to desire to excel and have no fear of failure, which in my opinion has dramatically changed the mindset on how we approach everything we do individually and as a team.
“Another change I’ve seen is the way we attack practice. Without a doubt in my mind, we are the best practice team in the country. I don’t say that jokingly – we outwork everyone in the country in practice and our attention to detail in everything we do in order to execute on the field is unmatched. By making practice so intense and fast, the games seem easier and more controlled, and it will be translated onto the field even more now that we’ve built a culture around here. Now we play fast, gritty and fearless. There’s a very bright future ahead of this program I think everyone will see very soon.”
Coach Riley seemed like a great person, but Scott Frost is obviously a legend here in Nebraska. What has it been like to get a chance to know him and to play under his guidance?
“I will always appreciate Coach Riley’s staff for recruiting me and giving me a chance to get on the field early in my career. When we got the news that Coach Frost was going to be our next head coach, I think the whole state was excited. Then, when he got here, everyone had respect for him. It’s been awesome to have him as a head coach because, first, he grew up in Nebraska, so he understands the passion behind the program, secondly, because he led us to a National Championship, and third, because he’s one of the most creative offensive minds in the country.
“Obviously, there are other reasons like his coaching philosophies, loyalty and personality. He tells us that in everything we do, make sure it protects the warrior to our left and the warrior to our right. He’s that type of guy, that if you were going to battle, you’d want him by your side because you know he’s a fighter and that he has your back.”
We hear a lot about Zach Duval transforming the team and how it’s beginning to resemble the fast, physical teams Nebraska produced under Coach Devaney, Coach Osborne and Boyd Eppley. How would you describe the differences in the current strength and conditioning?
“It’s tough. They push us to limits we never knew we had, but that’s not just what we need, but what the University of Nebraska has needed since the 1990s. They’re starting to create a culture of toughness and grit, and with Coach Frost forcing us to play faster than any team in the country, it is a dangerous, dangerous combo.
“Like I said earlier, we’ve built a culture of attacking everything we do, and it starts in the weight room. With the last staff, we rarely would do back squat, and this staff has gotten my back squat up to around 700 pounds in about two years. We’ve put on so much muscle since they arrived, and we’ve also ‘leaned out’ a lot. When we were winning national championships, there were a lot of influences, like the legend Tom Osborne, but we also overpowered every team mentally and physically, and that’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

It sounds like the players are more cohesive and confident than in quite some time. Would you agree? What is the attitude you and the entire team are preparing to take into the new season?
“100%. We are a closer team and our culture is teaching us to be accountable and execute as a unit. I can see we are more confident and relentless in how we attack on the field. We are going on a revenge tour, and we want to show everyone that Nebraska is back.”
Have Coach Frost and the staff talked to the team about setting goals for 2019? Have the players taken it on themselves to set any specific goals for the season?
“Honestly, the coaching staff is pretty set on attacking everything one thing at a time, but I know everyone expects to be playing for the Big Ten championship and winning a National Champpionship. It’s expected that we get better and better each day. It’s how we approach practice, like, ‘tomorrow’s practice is going to be the best practice we’ve ever had, and then the next day.”
Have you set any personal goals for yourself this year?
“I want to be a playmaker for us on offense and special teams. I want to make the big play when we need a big play. I want to be the best teammate I can be. I want to represent my family and community to the best of my ability.”
After last year, it’s pretty obvious you will be a major contributor on special teams. What about your role in the offense?
“I obviously want to contribute to the team offensively, and I believe the coaches see I am able to do that. But nothing is ever given, and we won’t know until the season starts and everything falls into place. I want to make sure I also help my teammates out when it comes to knowing the playbook and the opponent each week.”
It’s obviously been an eventful and successful time for you at the University of Nebraska. You began as a walkon, prevailed through injuries and a concussion scare, earned a scholarship and diploma, have seen meaningful action in games – and even become engaged! Are there any certain memories or accomplishments that have more meaning to you?
“One that definitely stands out is when I finally proposed to my girlfriend and soul mate of the past eight years, Dana Pelster. That night was truly special and I don’t think it could have been more perfect. She has been my rock through it all and, honestly, I’m so blessed to have her in my life and I’m excited for the future we have together.
“Another is when Coach Frost announced to the team that I would be put on scholarship. I’ve put everything I have into this team and there’s been so many rough times that I was set back and facing adversity, and it really was hard to keep an optimistic attitude. But I never gave up and kept working harder and harder to overcome my circumstances because I committed to this team and I know I do not EVER want to have any regrets about my time here. If there’s one thing I can control, it’s my effort and work ethic, and that came from growing up in a small town, Albion, Nebraska.
“As you grow older, you might change a little bit in certain areas of your life, but I know one thing that hasn’t changed is my roots. I’m really proud of being from Boone County, and I know that most of what people see of me reflects where I came from. All the coaches and teachers I had from my childhood until my senior year in high school helped groom me into the man I am today, and for that I thank you.
“I’m really grateful for Coach Bussey teaching me to never fear pain and to never show weakness in junior high, and for Coach Johnson showing me what it truly means to love the game of football. These men transformed my life tremendously when it comes to toughness and how to overcome adversity, not only in football, but in life in general.”
Do you notice changes in yourself relating to your time at the University and in the football program? Can you describe some of the benefits your experience has provided you?
“One thing I noticed has changed a ton is my time management and studying. That first semester was an eye-opener and I had to totally change everything I was doing because I knew I needed to do better in school. So, my study habits are so much better and I am able to put off procrastinating so I can really focus on my schoolwork.
“Also, when I first got to college, I didn’t really think that much about physical recovery. Not because I didn’t believe in it, because I obviously do, but because I didn’t have it as a priority. Now I focus on doing everything I can to enhance my recovery. This includes yoga, rehydrating – like, a lot! – nutrition, ice tub and hot tub, and a lot of other ways I approach getting my body back in shape to perform at a high level. As a Nutrition, Exercise and Health Science major, I obviously learned the importance of nutrition and hydration when it comes to the body’s ability to recover, so I was just applying that to my life and I noticed a lot of changes in my recovery.
“Lastly, I can push through pain and fatigue a lot easier. I noticed this change more recently, like when the new staff came, because now I ignore most of the psychological things, which allows me to push myself harder and get myself better by doing it.”
Coach Frost has re-emphasized the walkon program. Many of us older fans remember so many walkons from small towns across Nebraska and the pride those communities had when their native sons played as Huskers. Do you realize how proud the fans in the Albion area are of your accomplishments? Has it given you any further motivation and drive?
“I don’t think I can fully comprehend the amount of support I have from everyone in my life, which includes my hometown. All I know is that I couldn’t have done any of it if I did not come from where I do. So I hope that my hometown knows how proud I am to be from Albion and represent the surrounding communities. For sure it has (given me motivation), I don’t want to let anyone down, including myself, so I think that’s why I always push myself so hard and hold myself to a high standard. It’s honestly a blessing to have such support and love from home, and I hope to give back as much as I can to a community that has given me so much throughout the years. I will never forget the support we had when we made out title run our senior year, and that’s what makes our town so special.”
Thanks Wyatt! Do you have any general comments you’d like to share with friends and fans back home?
“I guess I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported me and other alumni through the years. It means so much to me to have a community like Boone County have my back, and I will continue to have yours.
“To all the kids, no matter how hard you work, you can always work harder. No matter what sport you play, I hope you apply one motto to how you approach it – ‘desire to excel and fear no failure.’ Don’t hesitate in anything in life. If an opportunity presents itself, go make it happen with everything you got. If you make a mistake, at least it was full speed and you can continue to to work on technique. But if you tiptoe through anything in life, then you’re keeping yourself from reaching your full potential. So, if you have a dream in life, don’t ever wait for it to happen, go make it happen and be proud of where you came from.
“Lastly, Albion will always have a special place in my heart, and it’s an honor to represent my community. I would also like to say thank you to my parents and family for always being there for me and pushing me competitively to be the best I can be. As for this fall, it’s going to be one to remember – we have some business to attend to this season. I hope everyone has their Saturdays free so they can sit back, hang out with family and enjoy the revenge tour, because NEBRASKA IS BACK!
“Go Cardinals and Go Big Red!”