Just before Ron Kellogg would be honored as the Tom Novak Award Winner in conjunction with the Outland Award banquet Thursday, the senior quarterback pondered a question he assumes many Husker fans will obsess over for the next eight months.
Who's the next NU quarterback?
A local reporter asked. Kellogg smiled.
“Quarterback position battle, that's always the topic, especially around here,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg would know better than most. He ended his Husker career at the Gator Bowl last week before accepting Nebraska's Novak Award on Thursday for best exemplifying courage and determination.
The night's event truly belonged to Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald — who was named this season's Outland winner. He's a first-team All-American who also earned the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Rotary Lombardi Award.
About 500 people were on hand in a Doubletree Hotel ballroom in downtown Omaha for the banquet, which also honored Jim Ritcher, the 1979 Outland winner from N.C. State. Nebraska offensive linemen Jeremiah Sirles (Guy Chamberlin Award) and Cole Pensick (Cletus Fischer Native Son Award) were also recognized at the ceremony.
Kellogg, though, seemed to be a fan favorite. It didn't hurt that video of his game-winning Hail Mary throw against Northwestern was shown on the ballroom big screen just before Kellogg took the microphone.
Kellogg thanked as many people as he could, and he made a point to remind the high school football players in the crowd that there's nothing wrong with walking on somewhere and working your way up the depth chart.
Perhaps that's why Kellogg isn't so quick to assume that the Huskers' starting quarterback job is a two-man race between Tommy Armstrong and Johnny Stanton.
“Another name: Ryker Fyfe, who's the dark horse walk-on player,” Kellogg said. “All three of those guys share the same characteristics. They're hungry to learn.”
An appearance at the East-West Shrine Game later this month is only a small piece of the pre-draft process for Sirles. He doesn't want to waste it, though.
That's why Sirles, an NFL draft hopeful, has already started studying film of guys he'll line up against during the Shrine Game practices leading up to the Jan. 18 all-star event.
“Just kind of get a general idea of what I'm up against,” Sirles said.
Is it overkill? Maybe. But Sirles knows he'll be challenged all week trying to pick up an entirely new offense while NFL scouts analyze his abilities. Gaining a possible edge on his counterparts seems like a no-brainer to Sirles.
“I hate being unprepared,” he said.
Pensick doesn't want to be the guy telling what-if stories when friends ask him if he ever tried to play professional football.
So he'll start training with strength coach James Dobson on Monday. Several Husker seniors are in a similar situation, too.
Sirles, Quincy Enunwa, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Ciante Evans and Brent Qvale are the only five outgoing NU seniors expected to play in January all-star games. The NFL combine is in February, but most of the class will spend the next few weeks preparing for Nebraska's pro day on March 6.
Pensick's not sure what exactly the results will be for him.
“Just give it a go and see what's out there,” he said.
Ľ Kellogg said senior quarterback Taylor Martinez is back home in California, where he's expected to train for upcoming evaluations over the coming months. Said Kellogg: “I'll still be there for him as a friend. Hopefully, I'll get to see him on Sundays.”
Ľ Kellogg's not sure what his next move will be. He's considering applying for a position on the NU staff. Not yet, though. “I've been relaxing, because I haven't done that for five years,” Kellogg said.
Ľ As has been common among Huskers lately, Pensick has lots of admiration for true freshman I-back Adam Taylor, who redshirted in 2013. “He has tremendous work ethic. Just a great athlete,” Pensick said.
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Video: Huskers receive awards