Each year, many NU football alumni leave their lives of professional football to return to the college campus in which they built a foundation for a successful future. It gives these former players a chance to be proud of their university. This spring game weekend offers a different opportunity for a former Nebraska standout.
Carl Nicks loves the University of Nebraska, but the program has recently not loves him back. At the end of Nicks's senior year, he had a good feeling that he was going to be drafted. Nicks decided he was going to stop going to class and begin preparing for a future in the NFL.
"I started skipping classes my senior year because football season was over, we weren't going to a bowl game," Nicks said. "I figured I was going to get drafted, so I said I was going to focus on football, not even go to class, and just work out, and that's what I did."
Nicks's poor decisions came full-circle on a March Saturday, just five days before Nebraska pro day. Nicks was at a house party at a friend's house, and the party was busted by the Lincoln Police Department. Nicks was asked to leave, but refused because he was planning on spending the night at the house.
Nicks was subsequently arrested for the incident. Then newly hired head coach Bo Pelini told Nicks he was banned from Nebraska pro day, and was not welcome back. Nicks was infuriated at the new coach, who he had never met before.
"I blamed him, but I talked to a couple of my teammates and a couple guys that played for Bo, and they were like, Bo is a fair honest guy, and you got to look in the mirror to figure out what you did wrong, and you got to make it right."
Since leaving Nebraska, Nicks has gone on to have a successful two years in the NFL. The former junior college transfer has played every game as starting guard for the New Orleans Saints. Nicks achieved every football player's dream when he helped his Saints win the Super Bowl. Nicks has earned a lot of money and had success on the field, but something wasn't right.
The Nebraska alum did not feel right about his bad falling-out with the Nebraska football program. Nicks loves being a Husker, but couldn't bear to know that the love wasn't mutual. He had to mend his relationship with the Nebraska football program, and put his mistakes in the past.
"I could wear Nebraska stuff all day and night, and rep it until my face turns blue, but if I feel like I wasn't welcomed here, or I had a bad name, it's not worth it, so I had to set it right."
Nicks admitted he didn't realize his passion for being a Husker during his time in Nebraska. He saw his time in Lincoln as a stepping stone to the NFL, and he didn't appreciate what it meant to play for Nebraska. He didn't value being a Husker until he became an NFL player.
"(I was) really immature and cocky. I was going to come here. Play here two years, and go to the NFL. It was a stepping stone. I didn't really take it for what it was worth. I regret it now. All I can do is learn from it."
So Carl Nicks is back in Nebraska, and he wanted to meet with the man who he described as "the face of Nebraska football," the same guy who told him he was not welcome, Bo Pelini.
Nicks described his brief conversation with Pelini as a successful one. Hopefully a step to mend his relationship with the program.
"We don't really have a relationship. That was the first time I've ever talked to him. But I think this is going to be a step in the right direction as far as the mutual respect we have for each other."
Nicks will have the opportunity to meet fans at a couple autograph signings, and he plans to take part in a charity golf outing. Basic steps to bring him back into good graces with the Nebraska football community.
When Carl Nicks entered the Hawks Championship Center for Wednesday practice, he entered as a footnote of Nebraska football. An unwelcomed and forgotten player, who betrayed his teammates, coaches and university.
However, Nicks walked out of the facility as a changed man. He is once again a Husker, and could proudly say so.
As Nicks walked toward his car (ironically into the sunset), he looked back to me and said, "it's good to be back."