If you were on the team now and said you were there when Charlie McBride was still the D.C., most everyone would probably assume you are a coach. For Defensive Tackle, Jason Lohr, he has as much experience at Nebraska as some coaches. Heck, this year, he has a few years on most.
That longevity is mostly due to a plague of injuries that seems to hang over the veteran like a rain-cloud hovering above the Redwoods in Oregon. Both the 2001 and 2002 seasons saw Lohr sidelined with injuries, the first being a torn ACL suffered against Notre Dame, the injury leading to a medical hardship granted by the Conference. That was followed by again, tearing the same ACL, this time before the 2002 season had even begun.
Whether you believe in luck or not, if Jason Lohr didn't have bad luck, it would seem he wouldn't have any at all. "He's due for some good luck." head coach Frank Solich stated. "And a long stretch of it."
"He's a proven player for us, it's just that he hasn't been on the field for so long."
Since September 8th, 2001 to be exact. Let's face it, Jason Lohr may have a ton of experience, but much of that experience isn't the kind any football player wants to have.
There's the good and bad to that, the one good thing is that he's become accustomed in just how to deal with adversity. "It started as small injuries." Lohr stated. "But, it builds up and it seemed never-ending, but it was obviously meant to be, so there's nothing I can do about it, except look forward and try to take it one step at a time."
Going into his 6th year, that's a lot of steps Jason has had to take, but as seemingly endless as his journey has been with it's trials and tribulations, the team around him has changed even more dramatically. Take into account that now, Jason will be on his 3rd defensive coordinator and will have seen no less than a total of 13 asst. coaches and 4 graduate assistants.
While Jason has been idle because of reoccurring injuries, the team has been anything but, giving the veteran a perspective nobody has and an opinion on the new changes that should be perceived as close to the most accurate and realistic look at just what the early returns are on this new staff as a whole. "It's a lot of changes." Lohr said of this new wave of coaches. "It happens though."
"The coaches, they are pretty positive and that leaves a good impression on the players. If the coaches are positive, we are pretty positive and we are confident in our abilities and are able to go out there and do what we are supposed to do."
That positivity seems to have been almost a slogan for this year more than any other. Aside from the promotion by the defense of "hit or miss", a saying that seems to have caught on with most of the defensive players, the new attitude seems to be building it's own steam as well. There is another word though that has arisen and the fact that it has come up so much seems to indicate another thing that is new with this coaching staff as opposed to the unit prior.
"I think you have to respect your coaches to a certain degree, because if you don't, why are you here." Jason said. "But, with Pelini here, he demands a little more respect than the previous couple of years, so that's the good thing."
"Just coming from the NFL, I think he knows what he's talking about, so it's good if we listen to what he has to say."
From the mention of his name as a candidate for the job of D.C. at the University of Nebraska, it seems that respect has gone along with it. And since his arrival on campus, especially after players have had a chance to taste just what Pelini has to offer, that respect has done nothing but grow.
Due to all the publicity Pelini has received for that respect, some wonder not about the comparisons to the most recent D.C he replaced, because there doesn't appear to be any, but the one that preceded Craig Bohl, a D.C. that himself was not just respected but was revered for his way of doing things.
Who better to comment on the inevitable comparison between Charlie McBride and Bo Pelini than a player who has played under both. "From where I have been here, he's (Pelini) pretty straight forward and McBride was like that to and both are pretty intense."
"They are straight-forward with you. They won't lie to you or dance around the truth. They will tell you if you are good, if you are not and they are intense and that shows down to us as players and we just take that to the field and use that to try and be an aggressive defense."
The one thing I got from interviewing Jason was not an attitude of ‘wait and see" in reference to all this positivity turning into positive results, but of a player that has over half a decade of experience, thus giving him a more down-to-earth view of expectations. And, not just of this staff's ability, but the ability of the players to translate that potential into results that everyone can be proud of. "I think you have to take it one step at a time." Jason said. "The players do the playing. The coaches, they can only do so much. They teach you, but you have to play, so it's a big responsibility on us as players to do our job and hopefully win some games."
Winning games is the end-all-be-all of any sporting experience. To win, every player whether they were part of that game or not, if it's their team, their elation is just as real as it is to those that were part of the entire contest. With that being said however, Jason Lohr isn't looking forward to any chance of him having once again to live vicariously through others, having been a spectator for almost two years now. "Being on the sidelines is just killing me." Jason said. "I just want to be out there. They are having fun and I am just standing there watching."
"I just can't wait for the first game. Two weeks is too long. It's too long for me. I just can't wait."
I don't think that anyone would be surprised at how much Jason is excited at the prospect of getting on the field once again. And, I don't think anyone would be shocked that the recent back spasms that have had him relegated to spectator once again isn't even phasing him due to his experience with problems much worse. I do think though that you might be taken aback at least to a degree when Lohr sums up his career, the adversity and how he sums it up.
"I came in here when McBride was here and Solich was just starting." Jason said. "We went 9-4 that first year, but the next year we went to the Fiesta Bowl. But, I don't really spend my time looking back because you can't, but I have had a heck of a time since I've been here."
"I wouldn't change a thing."
In what would seemingly be a new era for Husker football, positivity has prevailed. From the attitudes mostly due to the new changes, all the players seem to have found a reason for thinking about better days ahead.
Jason Lohr though, he's got a different perspective, perhaps better than any. He's seen those "better days" and he as an individual player has certainly seen some of the worst. He's had it worse than the fans, because the fans look at a tumultuous season, he's had a tumultuous career. Yet, he smiles nonchalantly, shrugs his shoulders as if fate is in control and remains positive throughout.
"I've looked at everything that has happened as something I can't do anything about. All anyone can do is just try and forget about it and look ahead. You just go out there, do what you can do and hope for the best."
"That's all you can do."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619
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