Loyd Phillips was already enjoying some Outland Trophy festivities and his time in Omaha when he got an added bonus Thursday.
Hours before the Outland banquet, Phillips was surprised to find that former Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles and former Razorbacks teammate Ken Hatfield had arrived to see him receive his trophy for the award he won in 1966.
The arrangements were made by Phillips' wife, Betsy, without him knowing.
“I can't tell you how much it does mean to me,” said Phillips, 67, as he looked out to the 88-year-old Broyles and a table of Arkansas friends during the banquet at the Downtown DoubleTree.
Also, current Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, who succeeded Broyles in 2008, made the trip and presented the trophy to the former Hogs defensive tackle who played on a national championship team in 1964 and was an All-American in 1965 and '66.
Staying in the moment
Since saying Tuesday that he would declare for the NFL draft, 2012 Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is being projected as one of the top picks.
What would he think of Kansas City, since the Chiefs have the No. 1 overall pick?
“There's great barbecue in Kansas City,” Joeckel said, smiling.
“That's all for another day. I just made the decision to go, and it would be an honor to play with whatever team picks me up. Just playing in the NFL is my dream.”
Both Joeckel and Alabama center Barrett Jones have chosen the same agent. Jones won the 2011 Outland after playing tackle for the Crimson Tide as a junior.
Is there a friendly rivalry to see who goes higher?
“Who knows what's going to happen,” Joeckel said. “There's a lot we've got to go through before now and then.”
Fisher still undecided
Still no final word from Nebraska linebacker Sean Fisher, who can head off to medical school or delay that path by petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of football eligibility.
“I haven't made a definitive decision,” Fisher said Thursday night. “I'm sure here in the coming days I really need to start figuring it out, because winter conditioning is coming up next week and that's something that I need to look at.”
Fisher was one of three Husker seniors honored during the Outland Trophy banquet as recipient of the Tom Novak Trophy. NU defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler was presented with the Cletus Fischer Native Son Award.
I-back Rex Burkhead was the winner of the Guy Chamberlin Trophy, but he's training in Florida and was unable to make the banquet.
Fisher, a Millard North graduate who has carried a 4.0 grade average through his NU career, would start medical school in August if he chose to give up football. He also is scheduled to get married in the summer.
“You play a game for so long and it's kind of weird to imagine life without that game,” he said. “It's just trying to decide if I'm comfortable with how my career's gone and if I'm ready to give up the game, or if it's something I want to do one more year.”
Back at the banquet
Steinkuhler underwent surgery on his right knee last month and said he should be cleared by June or July to begin working out for NFL teams. The draft status of the three-year Husker starter is in limbo because of the injury he suffered Nov. 23 at Iowa.
“I'm concentrating on getting healed up first,” he said, “and I'll just see what happens after that.”
Steinkuhler previously had attended the Outland banquet in 2002. That's when his father, former NU offensive lineman Dean Steinkuhler, was brought back to be recognized for the award he won in 1983.
Baker Steinkuhler said the trophy sits on the coffee table at his dad's home.
“I like the banquet,” Steinkuhler said. “It's a fun atmosphere, and I guess it's something I'll never get to do again.”
NU staff members Ross Els, Ron Brown and Jeff Jamrog were on hand to present the Husker senior awards. Also in attendance was new Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.
— Rich Kaipust