Q&A with the Mad Russian - Matt Slauson

He's got more nicknames than Apollo Creed, but some would say that he doesn't have enough. Sophomore offensive lineman Matt Slauson probably has room for a few more. He'll have time to make them and the opportunities as well as Slauson could be the most dominant offensive lineman the Huskers have this year. But is that good enough to hold his own against Adam Carriker?

Matt clued is on on his duels with "Drago", another russian, more or less, along with his progression. Is he ready to lead this line back to greatness?

[Steve Ryan] Ok, give me the official count on how much you played last year

[Matt Slauson] "I started three games at the end. I played a little in the first game, but then played special teams after that until I started. But I still played special teams."

How do you feel your progression as a lineman in Division 1-A was? What do you think you picked up on the most?

"I think being behind Seppo (Evwaraye) and having him coach me and tell me tricks that worked for him in pass blocking helped me. Pass blocking is a different deal for different people. Chris Patrick's technique is different than (Lydon) Murtha's and mine is different than theirs. My style fit Seppo's more than anyone else"

"Our builds, footwork, foot speed and hands were about the same, plus we were both inside-hand players, which basically means we were more comfortable with the left hand."

Ok, I have heard that you wanted to join the Air Force, but you didn't and the reasons have varied from the fact that you were either just too big to fit in the plane and you wanted to be a pilot or other stuff. What's the reason you didn't join your brother there?

"My brother went there and his life is basically set up for him, but for me, it just didn't really fit my goals. I wanted a chance to go to the NFL and it's hard to get there from the Service Academies."

"The NFL either has to wait five years for you to get out or they have to buy out your contract. And that's a lot to ask them to do on a guy they basically know nothing about. So, I decided to go to a regular college instead."

The offensive line had issues last year, especially when it came to protecting Zac Taylor. Was there any one thing that you can pinpoint as to what the problem was?

"Communication was the biggest deal last year. Last year we were still just getting into the groove and we were starting to get it, but everybody wasn't on the same page all the time."

"Throughout the spring our communication was really good. Coach Wagner said that he wanted to hear us on every play, hear everyone make their call. If he couldn't hear us, he would stop the play."

Was it starting to wear on you guys mentally at all, with the theme of the offense being basically how much damage Taylor was taking game after game?

"Yeah, but it really did come down to communication. Zac would come up to the line and he makes the read on the MIKE (middle linebacker) and calls it out. Zac is almost always right too, because he can see the entire scheme. Well, Kurt (Mann) would make a different call at the line, based on what he saw."

"So Zac makes one MIKE-call, Kurt makes a different one and when the ball is snapped, we have guys doing different things. That's when you get holes in your zone blocking and that's a lot of reason players were getting through."

So, Kurt has the last call for your assignment on the line?

"Well, we changed how we did it, because obviously we had some problems. Now Zac has the MIKE. He's calling it out and we make our line calls based off of that, because based on that call, that's how we adjust our zone blocking."

"We changed that this spring."

"Zac makes the call, Kurt calls that out to the guards, the guards to the tackle and then we can go."

Throughout all of spring, it seemed like you were the only lineman that could actually go toe-to-toe with Adam Carriker. That has to feel pretty good.

"My first padded practice in fall camp last year, I got to be introduced Adam on a play. He was coming outside and I didn't know what I was doing. He turned it inside, came at me on a bull rush, picked me right up and threw me into the quarterback."

"My first thought was "welcomed to Nebraska, that's Adam CArriker, might want to stay away from him. He's a scary, scary man."

Once you got a feel for what kind of player he was, he must have been the guy you picked out as kind of a litmus test for your progression.

"Oh yeah, he's a guy I can really use to see where I'm at. I know he's one of the best in the country and if I can go against him and I can go toe to toe with him, I will be fine against anyone.I should do ok against that All-American from USC."

When someone looks at you and watches you play, it's easy to see how they would think that you are one of those classic slobber knockers; big as hell, the disposition of a rattlesnake, etc. Would you say that's true?

"Well, no, not really. I mean, that's always something my dad always told me since I started playing. In junior high we did nothing but run and in high school, we'd pass maybe five times a game. When I went to the prep school, it's an option team for the air force, so I do did nothing but run block, run block, run block."

"So I would be taking guys and just throwing them around and knocking them into other players, just doing whatever I could to wall off that side."

"And my dad always said, come up to the line and you have to do whatever you have to do to get yourself so mad that you want to tear their head off. But that doesn't really work for me."

"So, I'd joke around instead."

"Like with Adam, Barry Turner or Jay Moore, I would come up to the line and just say ‘Hey Adam, you ready for the pain? The pain train is coming through. Get ready for the pain."

Ok, you bring up the nicknames and it seems like you have a ton. I have heard the one you just mentioned; the "Pain Train", but I have also heard Slausinator, Slausburger, which just ended up being "burger", which I heard was coach Norvell's thing with you or something. What are the rest of your nicknames?

"Well, Moses I got from my senior year in basketball. They called me that, because I would play the post and every time I went up for a rebound and came down, guys would just bounce off of me."

"And Coach "K" (Strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy) calls me the "Mad Russian."

"I guess he thinks I look Russian. Ever since I started climbing (stair climber) every single day, he started calling me the Mad Russian. Every time I do good in the weight room or running, he'd always say something about me being the Mad Russian, saying ‘That Mad Russian sure is strong – that Mad Russian sure can run."

"Pain Train was started a long time ago and my O-line coach (in high school) and he absolutely loved it."

"Steve Octavien calls me Neidhart from the WWF. One of those wrestlers. He says I look just like him with the really long beard."

"I just go with it. They can call me whatever."

You talk about being strong. A guy your size has to be strong as an ox. How much do you bench?

"435 right now."

Is that enough?

"No. If you get 300, you want to bench 400. If you get 400, everyone wants to bench 500. So, everyone wants to get to 500."

Seriously? Why 500 pounds?

"Well, Brock (Pasteur) can bench 500 pounds and he's the only one. So, we are all trying to get there."

Who benches over 400?

"Most of the offensive line. A lot of the defensive line. Adam Carriker, Ola (Dagunduro), Barry Cryer, (Ndamukong) Suh, Chris Patrick, Mike Huff and some other guys."

How much does it help you just being so darn big?

"It helps a lot. The coaches actually want me to lose some weight, about ten pounds. I know I would feel better if I was 325, so that's where I am trying to get."

Do you have any sense of what you have accomplished in facing guys like Adam. Has that changed your expectations of where you were coming in and where you can eventually be?

"Yeah, in a way. Coming in, I just thought I was going to be just another number. I was just hoping that maybe after a redshirt year and maybe my sophomore year, I could get a look and maybe get on the field and start as a junior."

"I'm really humble, so I don't know what my potential is, but I was surprised when I played my first year."

After actually going back and forth with Adam, though, you have to feel like you can play this game.

"To be honest, more often than not, it's just me getting lucky."

But after a day, if you can go half the day without getting tossed on your @#%$ by him, that has to feel good, though, right?

"On any given play, if Adam wanted to, he could destroy any tackle in the country. He has this one move, where he will get me every time. That's a speed rush outside to a bull rush."

"Adam is a fast guy. He's a 295 pound beast that runs a 4.6. That's a lot of weight flying up field, so the tackle is booking it to the corner to beat him there and as soon as Adam turns it into the bull rush, the tackle is on his heels and they are done."

How much does it mean to you or how much do you know of the reputation Nebraska lines used to have and if you are familiar with that, how much does it inspire you to want to get to that status again?

I think it's crucial to get back there. Nebraska is a huge name. The fans here are ridiculous and they know how good Nebraska was. They have been following them through everything and I think it's crucial that we get back to the 95 offensive line, where we are all just mean and we come into work just angry at the world, but we're bringing our lunch box every day

I watched you throw up five times during practice this spring and go back to the huddle every single time. You said you had a cold as if anyone pukes five times after a cold. People see that and they think hard core. There are a lot of guys, if they are throwing up, they are going to the locker room and they are done. What's going on in your head, because you can't be worried about losing your spot?

"I'm just so grateful to be here and playing, actually – being on the field this soon. I'm playing for a lot of reasons."

"For my family and for a lot of people that said I wouldn't be able to do it. There's always motivation in me to keep on going. I may not always play my best and I might get beat now and again, but I won't stop."

"I really want to try and get the offensive line in that mentality of we are the big nasties on that team."

I bet you can't wait to see yourself on that new big screen eh?

Uh-uh, I don't want to see that. I'll look like I weigh 400 pounds. I wouldn't mind playing NCAA on it, though.

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