The Nebraska coaching staff cast their net on the state of Florida in 1991, making a concerted effort to recruit speed and play-makers. It just so happened the Sunshine state was home to the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation.
Tommie Frazier was a senior at Manatee High School in Bradenton. The 6-foot, 190-pound Frazier was the one player NU head coach Tom Osborne and the Huskers thought would be a difference-maker for their offense - a quarterback who could both run and pass effectively, as well as make everyone around him better.
“My high school coach was more of a pro-style guy that implemented the option into his passing game. We had three-, five- and seven-step drop passing game, along with play action, so I was able to throw the football. I was an athletic quarterback but I could do both (run and pass),” Frazier said.
“If he couldn’t run a lick he’d still be a great quarterback. He’s another Turner Gill,” said Manatee Head Coach Joe Kinnan after Frazier signed with Nebraska.
Characterized as a born leader, Frazier was the USA TODAY All-American quarterback after throwing for 1,053 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing for 856 yards and nine scores. Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming listed Frazier as the No.3 recruit on his nation’s Top 101 list.
“If you looked at the schools I was considering as my final choices, they were all cold-weathered schools, except for Clemson. Weather didn’t factor into it,” Frazier said. “I just wanted to go to a place where I felt comfortable and where I would have an opportunity to play quarterback. That was the one thing I wanted most…was to go to a place and play quarterback.”
Frazier’s final five schools were Syracuse, Clemson, Colorado, Notre Dame and Nebraska. He liked the offense each school ran, option-style systems that revolved around the quarterback. But one school stood out after Frazier took a visit to Boulder, Colorado.
“Colorado was the school I was going to go to,” Frazier explained. “I loved Colorado, the type of offense they were running and I loved the coaching staff. Les Steckel (CU assistant coach) did a great job recruiting me. He didn’t preach football, it was more about Christ, education and being the best person you can be, and football was just a bonus.
“After I got back from my visit to Colorado, I was getting ready to call to tell them I was going to commit, but Coach Steckel called me first. He said that he had some bad news. They no longer wanted me as a quarterback but as an athlete. They decided to change their philosophy on offense and that they already had a quarterback from Texas committed (Koy Detmer).”
So Frazier narrowed it down to three schools: Nebraska, Notre Dame and Clemson.
“I initially cancelled the Nebraska visit the week before I was scheduled to go there,” Frazier said. “I got to a point where recruiting got old and I was interested in two other schools. But my mom told me to be a man of my word, and if you say you are going to do something, you do it.”
When Signing Day came, Frazier woke up still undecided on where he would spend the next four years of his life. His mother asked him who his top two choices were and he said Nebraska and Clemson. She asked what he liked about each school.
“I said that they were both the same. My mother said that Clemson was closer and that they could watch me play more, but Nebraska had better tradition and that Coach Osborne was a great guy and would treat me well. She ended up putting the Clemson and Nebraska hats in a bag and said whichever one I grabbed out of the bag was the school I was going to commit to. I ended up pulling the Nebraska hat out.”
Was it fate, or merely chance? Either way, Nebraska got their difference-maker and turned their football program around, building a championship tradition in the mid-1990s. Frazier was 33-3 as a starter and led them to three national championship game appearances (1993, ’94, ’95) helping them win two. Frazier was also up for the Heisman Trophy in 1995, but was the runner-up to Ohio State’s Eddie George.
And it all happened because of a hat.
Photo Courtesy: Bradenton Herald
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Shane Gilster is the Editor of Big Red Report Magazine. His stories focus mainly on catching up with former Huskers and examining Nebraska athletic history.