That's a helluva advantage.
For offensive linemen, you might think that's perfect. You are bigger, probably stronger and when it comes to leverage, you've got it all. Hell, it's almost easy. "That's how it's been my entire career." Lydon said. "I've always been bigger than them and my last year, everyone played me hard, but I had a big advantage."
There is a downside to that though. You get used to playing people far less in stature than you, what happens when you face someone your size? A high school career of pushing players around can hurt technique, can be detrimental to even your mental approach and when you do finally face someone that is closer to you in that respect, it has a potential not being pretty.
Lydon got to find just that out though as his final year, his final game was in the U.S. All-American game gave Murtha a chance to face guys similar to him. Almost just like him in fact. "It was like facing another me." Murtha said of the defensive players he faced in the game. "They are as big as you are, maybe even stronger than you are, so you have to be on top of your game if you are going to stand toe to toe with them."
So, how did the All-American do?
"It was awesome." he said. "That was the most fun I have ever had in a game. When you play guys that good, you have to be at your best the whole time and you find out what you're made of."
What Lydon is made of is actually a little thin by current Division 1-A standards. Standing almost 6'8", Murtha is just scraping past the 300 lbs. mark. That would make you a tight end at most places, but it's not a weight Lydon plans on staying at very long. "The coaches have told me that I will probably play around 325 or 330." he said. "They want you leaner than they do big."
Buff over big, you can imagine that someone as imposing as Murtha is already will be even more so once he achieves that desired size, but Lydon states that he's not going to wait around until he is that size before he's planning on playing for NU. "I want to get out there as soon as I can." he said. "The coaches told me now is the time I need to start getting ready to play, so that's what I am doing and whether I make it or not my first year, I am still going to try and be on the field."
Being from outside the state of Nebraska, Murtha didn't grow up with Scarlet and Cream dreams dancing around in his head. Lydon though said you don't have to be a native of Nebraska to appreciate what it's like to be an offensive lineman for the Big Red. "That's as good as it gets." Lydon said. "I don't know the names, but everyone knows the tradition. The linemen at Nebraska have been some of the best ever in college."
"As a lineman, you want to go where you aren't just good, but where good isn't enough. If you are always expected to be better, you get better and at Nebraska, they expect you to be the best."
That's what some called Murtha this last year, his last season at the prep level. One of if not the best lineman in the United States of America. Lofty? You bet. High expectations? You know it. Murtha isn't deluded though by the kind of hopes that comes with all those stars by your name. "It's just hype." he said. "If you don't get it done on the field, just like that it's gone. You can't live off of what you did in the last game or the last season. Every time you go out there, that's how people are going to judge how good you are."
He's right, of course. You are only as good as your last game is a saying that is as true today as the day it was first made cliché. As for Lydon's last game, it was against as close to the kind of players that he will be facing soon as he's ever been in his entire career. Does that intimidate a young man that physically, you would think it almost impossible to do so? Quite the contrary. "The only way you get better out there is to face people as good or you or better than you." he said. "Every game at Nebraska, that's going to be the case. That's what you want. That's what you live for. I'm ready to get it going."
"Let's do it."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619