They had to re-recruit him, in effect. They had to remind him that being away from home was tough for any freshman, and that his future was bright if he showed patience. In other words, they had to talk to him the way his mother is always talking to him. Two weeks later Frazier became the first true freshman to start at quarterback in Nebraska history.
"The thing that's most intriguing about Tommie is that whatever he does, it seems to work out," Steele says. "An example would be the Florida-Georgia high school All-Star game his senior year, where the best 35 players from each state were playing each other. Well, Tommie wins MVP. He comes to Nebraska, he starts as a freshman. He plays in the Orange Bowl as a sophomore and wins Most Valuable Player. He goes back the next year and wins it again. It just seems like every time there's an honor on the line, the guy steps up and gets it done."
Frazier learned that he was last year's Orange Bowl MVP in the locker room shortly after the game. His numbers hardly revealed the impact his presence had had on the outcome. He'd completed three of five passes. He'd rushed seven times for 31 yards, 25 of them on a single play. "I look at that award and I ask myself, 'What was so impressive about what I did?' " Frazier says. "I was happy to win it, but when I sat down and thought about it, I thought it should have gone to [Nebraska fullback] Cory Schlesinger. Sometimes I think the reason I won it was a sympathy vote. And that bothers me."
The trophy is a replica of the one given to the team, only smaller. Frazier sent it home with his family to stand with the many others he's won for previous displays of excellence. But the trophy might not have been his to win at all if not for his mother's wise counsel earlier in the year. Frazier was preparing to be operated on when she flew to Lincoln to be by his side. "He was smiling and talking to the coaches and the doctors," she says. "But right away I could read his eyes and tell how much he was hurting. After everyone left the room, I said. 'I can see you're depressed, Tommie. Don't dwell on this.' He said, 'I might as well come back home, Mama, if I can't play ball anymore.'
"Well, I'd heard enough. I said, 'Number 1, you're here to get your education, and Number 2, to play football, not the other way around. So you concentrate on the schoolwork and make your grades and don't worry about the ball.' At first it was hard for him to hear the truth, but after a while his spirits picked up."
Several weeks ago when Frazier went home for spring break, the Nebraska quarterback situation came up only once in conversation. "It'll be just like before the Orange Bowl," Frazier told his mother. "I'll have to win the job back."
"I'm not worried," she replied. "Just go out there and do your best. Remember, Tommie, if you do your best...."
He didn't have to hear the rest. His name is Tommie Frazier, and he's known some things forever.