Legends Unleashed: Irving Fryar and Mike Rozier's Nebraska Football Odyssey

October 2, 2023

In the heart of the Nebraska football legacy, a unique story of camaraderie and triumph unfolds. Irving Fryar and Mike Rozier, connected through family ties and their shared New Jersey roots, found their destinies converging in the Cornhusker state. Their journey, marked by unwavering friendship, humor, and perseverance, continues to resonate through the hallowed halls of Nebraska football history.

Fryar, born in Mount Holly, and Rozier, hailing from Camden, embarked on their football odyssey with an unbreakable pact—where one went, the other would follow. Ultimately, they became integral components of "The Triplets," along with quarterback Turner Gill.

In the storied year of 1983, these three formed "The Scoring Explosion," a football phenomenon that etched its name in the annals of college football history. Their electrifying performance fell agonizingly short of a national championship, a mere two-point conversion away. Rozier's Heisman Trophy-winning season, boasting an astonishing 2,148 rushing yards, and Fryar's remarkable All-American campaign with 1,098 yards from scrimmage on just 63 touches, culminated in football greatness. It was a year that left an indelible mark.

Forty years later, Fryar and Rozier, accompanied by 1983 wingback Ricky Simmons, reunited at Tiburon Golf Club, reminiscing about their shared experiences. Laughter filled the air, mostly provoked by the ever-jovial Rozier, whose public stoicism belied his inner comedian.

One of Fryar's cherished anecdotes spotlighted Rozier's peculiar response to an on-field injury. Amidst a hushed stadium, as Rozier lay on the ground, Fryar approached him with concern. Rozier's response? A nonchalant query about the crowd's reaction—an incident that epitomized Rozier's unique sense of humor.

Rozier played a pivotal role in Fryar's journey at Nebraska, helping him overcome early doubts. Fryar had initially contemplated joining the Marines, aspiring to be a pilot like his uncles. Yet, his mother's insistence on education led him to Nebraska. However, there was a catch—Rozier's first year was spent at Coffeyville Community College, while Fryar wrestled with the challenges of dorm life at Abel Hall in Lincoln. It was a tough adjustment until Simmons, another teammate, extended a friendly hand, providing a much-needed lifeline.

Fryar's 18th birthday, spent far from home after Nebraska's victory over Penn State, was a testament to their friendship. While Fryar had minimal on-field contributions that year, Rozier was making his mark at Coffeyville, averaging an impressive 7.4 yards per carry.

Rozier's arrival in 1981 brought forth a powerful backfield, complemented by Roger Craig and Phil Bates, propelling the Huskers to national recognition. This was the era when Turner Gill emerged as the next great Husker quarterback, steering the team through memorable victories.

In 1982, with Rozier receiving twice as many carries as Craig, and Fryar showcasing his remarkable skills, Nebraska finished the season 12-1. Their only blemish came in a contentious loss to Penn State, a game forever remembered for an official's oversight.

The dawn of 1983 witnessed Nebraska pitted against Penn State in the inaugural Kickoff Classic, a special moment for Rozier and Fryar, playing just hours away from their hometowns in Giants Stadium. It was a dominant victory for the Huskers, with Simmons also relishing a memorable Rozier play.

Simmons had been grappling with executing a critical crackback block on a Penn State linebacker who had studied the game tape extensively. Rozier, in his characteristic witty style, assured Simmons he had a plan. His advice? Trick the linebacker by acting like he would block and then swiftly evading him. As Rozier successfully executed this plan, Simmons thanked him, sealing another remarkable Rozier moment in their shared history.

During their reunion, the trio also reminisced about the legendary coach Tom Osborne, sharing stories that shed light on his unique character. Simmons recalled a heartfelt letter from Osborne during his time in prison, a testament to the coach's genuine care for his players.

Fryar recounted an amusing incident when Osborne, during post-practice laps, outpaced both Fryar and Simmons. This raised the question of how the two fastest players on the team were getting lapped by the coach and Dave Rimington.

Rozier added another story, revealing a moment when he contemplated quitting. Osborne's reaction, uttered in his characteristic non-swearing manner, revealed his depth of character and mentorship.

Their journey at Nebraska was more than football—it was a testament to enduring friendships, mentorship, and the indomitable spirit of the Cornhusker legacy.

Source Lincoln Journal Star

Image courtesy of CORNHUSKERS Wire