CHADRON, Neb. — Nebraskans, particularly the 50 percent or so of the state’s population that lives in Omaha, have become more enthralled in pro football than usual during the NFL playoffs because Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning has frequently hollered “Omaha” during his cadence before taking the snap from center.
Chadron State quarterback Jonn McLain is among those who have been captivated by what seems to be a rather odd thing for a signal caller to utter. Whatever happened to just plain old “Down, set, hut one, hut two?”
Since McLain has been playing quarterback for 11 years, not counting the years before he entered middle school and was roughhousing with his older brothers on the lot next to their home on the east side of Chadron, so he’s particularly interested in how pro quarterbacks go about their business.
It’s been reported that Manning barked “Omaha” 44 times at the line of scrimmage against the San Diego Chargers in the American Football Conference semifinals and 31 times in the AFC title game against the New England Patriots.
Nebraskans have appreciated hearing something about their home state as they watched the playoff games. Five Omaha businesses combined to donate $500 to Manning’s charitable foundation every time he said “Omaha” in the game with the Patriots. It cost the businesses $15,500.
Also, the Omaha zoo named a penguin after the Broncos’ quarterback. That’s not a new idea. Former Chadron State wide receiver Don Beebe had a burro in the Milwaukee zoo named for him while he was playing for the Green Bay Packers.
McLain said he doesn’t know exactly what “Omaha” means when Manning says it, but he believes it alerts the Broncos’ offense that the ball will be snapped soon.
He also said this is not the first time Manning has used “Omaha” in his cadence.
“A few weeks ago, I saw his former coach (at Indianapolis), Tony Dungy, on TV and he said it was a code word to let the Broncos know they should be ready for the snap,” McLain said. “But I’m not sure he was certain of that.
“In our system at Chadron State, we could snap the ball without the quarterback saying a thing,” McLain added. “‘Omaha’ could be a dummy call. It may not mean a thing. I’m sure they don’t have any play named ‘Omaha.’ We have five or six words in our cadence that are key words that everyone on offense needs to know, but I also say a lot of other words that don’t have any meaning.”
Without giving away all the Eagles’ secrets, McLain said the name of any city in the CSC cadence relates to protection schemes that the linemen should use after the ball in snapped. McLain said he can’t remember using “Omaha” in his cadence, but he has used the names of other cities such as “Chadron,” “Chicago” and “Denver.”
“With the kind of success Peyton has been having, I’ll probably use ‘Omaha’ next year,” McLain said with a grin.
Another key word may change the snap count or switch the play from a pass to a run, said McLain, who has thrown for more than 11,000 yards as a high school and college quarterback, holds the Chadron High record for most touchdown passes with 49 and has tossed 72 of them for the Eagles, just one shy of Steward Perez’s school record. He has one more year of eligibility remaining.
McLain said the Eagles also have a word that alerts the team to ignore the next call he is going to make. They’ll run the play he’d previously called. The added lingo is used just to keep the opponents guessing.
That also seems to be what “Omaha” is doing to lots of sports fans heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl.