LINCOLN — Jamie Williams played enough football in his career — at Nebraska and later for 12 years in the NFL — to come to one definitive conclusion: Every season has its twists, turns and potholes. Even the best seasons.
It’s a mindset the NU associate athletic director wants to have as sport supervisor for Husker football and coach Bo Pelini’s liaison for new Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.
“Bo and I both know football isn’t a straight line,” said Williams, who’s also charged with overseeing leadership, recruiting and diversity initiatives across the athletic department. “You have to define yourself every year. You have to write the script every year. There’s always something you can’t predict — like a turf toe.”
Like Nebraska’s four-year starting quarterback, Taylor Martinez, suffering that injury on his left foot. Williams, who played for the Cardinals, Oilers, 49ers and Raiders in the NFL, had the injury more than once.
“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” he said.
What Williams wants to focus on now is helping Pelini and Husker football build on NU’s already-strong “brand” and win championships. Williams was appointed to oversee the sport last year by then-Athletic Director Tom Osborne, Eichorst said in a statement through his spokeswoman, and Eichorst kept him in the role this year.
But with the retirement of Osborne — who hired Pelini and was a handy point of contact and reference — Williams started having more conversations with the NU coach “every day or every other day.” He often attends practice and stands in the back of Pelini’s postgame press conferences. He’ll admit, too, he’s probably a little more hands-on than Osborne was, though not about game plans or X’s and O’s. Having served six years as athletic director at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Williams now prefers the high-level view.
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“College football is such a dynamic process, so we talk about a lot of things,” Williams said. “We’re both football guys, so we can talk and laugh it up, but the one thing I don’t want to do is get in his coaching. I want to clear a path so he can focus on what’s important.”
Pelini said the setup of talking with Williams — who reports to Eichorst — “was different to get used to at first,” but that Williams “brings a good perspective.”
“Jamie has been around a lot,” Pelini said. “Obviously he played a lot of years and brings a player’s perspective to it. He’s been around the game. He’s a lot like Coach Osborne. We don’t talk a lot of specific X’s and O’s, football things. It’s more generalities. He approaches it from an administrator’s standpoint. From that respect, it’s been a really good relationship.”
Eichorst, in his statement, said Williams “has solid credentials and experiences to draw upon. He was a former Husker football student-athlete, enjoyed a long and successful career in the NFL and is an established athletics administrator and mentor.”
One area in which Pelini and Williams have worked: recruiting. Williams said Pelini requested more recruiting staffing help in the offseason, so NU is hiring a director of recruiting operations while giving more recruiting responsibility to the director of player personnel, as well. After those positions are filled, Williams said, NU will hire two more regional recruiting assistants to work under the recruiting director.
“Everything you can do to get more information out and to identify guys earlier,” Pelini said about the rationale behind his request. “Everything is getting sped up so much. I feel it’s like coaching defense. Everything is getting sped up. It’s always an issue. It’s always a concern that you have to keep addressing.
“I think obviously Jamie and Shawn, they understand that, too. At the same time, you have to play within what the rules are. You have to do it the right way. You have to have a purpose behind what you’re doing and a plan. I think we do.”
Attracting top talent — which Williams said he plans to address in every Husker sport, since recruiting falls under his oversight — is harder than ever. Williams compared it to having three TV channels he watched growing up compared with the hundreds of channels on cable and satellite TV now. There are more athletes at more advanced stages of their development, with more teams scouting them.
“It’s a proliferation of data points,” Williams said. “It keeps you busy.”
Pelini echoes those thoughts.
“It’s just about finding ways to get an edge and get better,” he said. “Just keep looking at ways to keep improving what we’re doing.”
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Video: The Big Red Today Show, Oct. 8