I’ve doublechecked Tommie Frazier’s career stats, and apparently the numbers are not a hoax. He never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. The Tommie Frazier in my mind rushed for 1,000 yards a game.
Numbers aren’t everything. Frazier is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame’s newest class, and he earned it on nightmares alone. The Nebraska teams he quarterbacked came within one missed field goal of winning three national titles in a row. They won two, and the second one, against Florida in the ’96 Fiesta Bowl, was truly terrifying.
Gator fans, please turn your heads.
Yes, that was a Nebraska quarterback running through the finest the SEC had to offer, and yes, the final score was 62-24. If that seems weird and wrong today, back then the Cornhuskers were a mix of Alabama 2012 and the Oakland Raiders circa 1977. Sweet, kindly coach Tom Osborne somehow managed to keep repeat offenders such as star RB Lawrence Phillips and nose tackle Christian Peter on the field. But if those two hadn’t played a down, Nebraska was still better and deeper than anybody else. That ’95 team, named the best of all time in an ESPN poll, scored 52 points a game and trailed once all season. Over four years, despite several injuries, Frazier went 33-3 as a starter.
He didn’t have an NFL arm, and he played one game in the CFL before retiring with blood clots in his legs. Now erase that sentence from your mind. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is Tommie Frazier turning the key to that giant Nebraska threshing machine, running the option with such power and smoothness that touchdowns felt almost beside the point. This was how the best teams used to win college football games, with one simple play run over and over because in the right hands it is unstoppable. Tommie Frazier had the right hands. He could pitch to Phillips or future NFLer Ahman Green. He could pass, sparingly, like a child hoarding his allowance. But what he could do best was keep the ball and run.
College football is better now. Teams win in lots of different ways. Coaches invent plays and formations and whole new schemes, and a lot of them work. But sometimes you want steak with no sides, and sometimes you want to drive fast down an empty highway, and sometimes you want to see a gifted quarterback run the option like God and Bear Bryant (not necessarily in that order) intended. Tommie Frazier was the best who ever did it.
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