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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thug U?

Bill Callahan recently reinstated the scholarship of Major Culbert, a defensive back recruit who had been accused of sexual assault while on a recruiting visit to Oregon. In clearing Culbert to play, Callahan has perhaps revived the image of Nebraska as “Thug U". This was evident as message boards across the country lit up with anti-Nebraska sentiment and posters once again questioned our apparent “win-at-all costs” mentality.

In this post I thought I would do the dirty work for our critics and discuss some the biggest criminals ever to wear the Scarlet and Cream. I guess you could look at this as analogous to Eminem’s battle-rap finale in 8 mile. In that last battle B-Rabbit admits his faults and acknowledges his white trash roots with lines like: “I am white, I am an eff’n bum, I do live in a trailer with my mom.” By using this strategy Rabbit steals the ammunition of his opponent, rendering him speechless and defeated.

So this post is going to be just like that scene…sans Mekhi Phifer on the “ones and twos”. Oh and I also won’t be rapping, or rhyming for that matter. But other than that,it will be just like 8 mile.

So who are the Big Red’s biggest thugs?

Johnny Rodgers: “Johnny the Jet” is our “O.G. – Original Gangsta”. Early in his playing days, Rodgers was arrested for his role in a gas station robbery. Rodgers has since said the following about the event: "We robbed a gas station as a prank. We didn't have any weapons or anything like that. We could have got ourselves killed if he'd had a gun, for eighty darned dollars." Some have said that friendly relationships between Bob Devaney and important members of the criminal justice system kept this story from receiving more publicity at the time. But whatever the reason, it is doubtful that in today’s era, a player could recover from this type of incident and go on to win the Heisman trophy.

Lawrence Phillips: If I had decided to rank order this list, Phillips would no doubt garner the top spot. He has a criminal record that reads like a Tolstoy novel. His rap sheet has more entries than a “catch the greased altar boy” contest at a Catholic priest convention. It’s hard for us to forget Phillips’ transgressions as we are reminded of them at every opportunity by sportswriters and opposing fans alike. One of the most dreaded phrases for every Husker fan has surely become, “Former Nebraska football player Lawrence Phillips…” I suppose our only consolation in the L.P. saga lies in recognizing that at least he isn’t Rae Carruth.

Christian Peter: First off, Christian deserves special recognition for being accused of raping the same woman on back-to-back days. However, in addition, to the sexual assault allegations, Peter was arrested a total of eight times, and convicted four times while a Husker. The charges included threatening to kill a parking attendant, trespassing, public urination, refusing to comply with police, illegal possession of alcohol, failure to appear in court, and grabbing a woman by the throat. Christ, who knew all of that was even possible in a five-year college career. Maybe the race to decide Nebraska’s thuggiest thug whoever thugged, is closer than I expected.

Riley Washington: Washington played during the 1995 season despite being charged with attempted second-degree murder after allegedly shooting and wounding a man outside of a Lincoln convenience store. Coach Osborne stated that he believed that it was a case of mistaken identity and that Washington was innocent of the charges. Osborne said, "I realize that the prosecution feels that they have a strong case, however, I have not been privy to all of their information, and all I can do is act on the facts I have been presented." Washington left the team in 1996 and was later acquitted of these charges in 1997. By that time, however, the damage to his reputation and to the character of the university was already done.

Tyrone Williams: In 1994 Williams was charged with firing into an occupied vehicle. He later pleaded no contest to these charges and was convicted of a felony charge of unlawfully discharging a gun and a misdemeanor assault charge while a rookie with the Green Bay Packers. Williams was sentenced to six months in jail and also ordered to serve three years of probation and perform 400 hours of unpaid community service. In addition, in 2002 Williams’ wife peppered sprayed him and he also suffered a cut during a domestic disturbance.

Abdul Muhammad: Considering Muhammad was “straight outta Compton”, perhaps we should have known what we were getting into. He played at least part of his career with a bullet lodged in his ass after being the victim of a drive-by shooting. In another example of his “wrong place at the wrong time” tendencies, Muhammad was also a witness in the Riley Washington case. If that wasn’t enough, he is also shown displaying an apparent gang sign on one season’s schedule poster and after his career, in 2003 he pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon while living in Omaha.

Terrell Farley: Terrell Farley was like Nebraska’s own version of Chuck Norris, he was just that good. I mean, “Terrell Farley has two speeds: Walk and Kill” and “Terrell Farley is not hung like a horse... horses are hung like Terrell Farley.” Despite this prowess, however, Farley could not avoid trouble while a Husker. He was suspended for the first two games of 1996 after pleading guilty to charges following a drunk-driving arrest. Farley was contrite when Osborne reinstated him, saying, "It isn't going to happen again. I'm getting back to business." Unfortunately just prior to the Big 12 Championship Game against Texas, Farley was charged with seven misdemeanors following another arrest, this time for suspicion of drunken driving and resisting arrest. Osborne suspended him again, this time ending Farley's career at Nebraska.

Broderick Thomas: As my family can attest “The Sandman” was one of my favorite players while growing up and it hurts me to have to add him to the list. Broderick is a good example of the notion that it should be easy to avoid trouble while in Lincoln. His pro career, however, is a different story. Broderick’s five seasons in Tampa Bay were marred by an altercation at a nightclub in which an Air Force staff sergeant shot Thomas twice. Doctors removed only one bullet and the other remains lodged in his right shoulder. There was also the year in Detroit in 1994 in which he led the Lions in sacks and was called a positive influence by then coach Wayne Fontes. And then came the 1995 season in Minnesota, in which he was arrested twice for illegally carrying a handgun and was generally run out of town. The only good news is that while at Nebraska when Broderick referred to “our house” he wasn’t talking about the “big house”.

Josh Brown: I guess you should know you are in trouble when this list includes a kicker. I mean how hardcore is your team, when the kicker is a bad ass? I don’t remember all of the details, but Brown apparently served 23 days in jail after fighting with his ex’s new boyfriend and allegedly assaulting her as well. Given his company on this list, Brown almost seems angelic by comparison. Which I suppose is a lot like being the valedictorian of summer school.

Shevin Wiggins: Shevin was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA in 1999. Unfortunately, Wiggins missed the extra year of eligibility after being suspended from the team. His suspension occurred after he was accused of fondling two 14-year-old girls. The charges were later reduced to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. However, Wiggins’ charges offer more evidence that the “N” on our helmets definitely does not stand for N.O.W.

Well there is the list and it is impressive. But I don't mean impressive in a good way. Trust me I'm as big a fan as there is and I'm a believer in second chances and in some cases third chances. However, I feel it never hurts to attempt to understand where the criticism of our program stems from. We have had our fair share of thugs, as have many programs. But there's no reason for our scarlet colored glasses to serve as blinders and by admitting our shortcomings perhaps we can eliminate some of the sting when they are pointed out by others.

Or as B-Rabbit closed his final rhyme: "Here, tell these people something they don't know about me."