Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise: Huskers' Matt Davison speaks at annual Big Red Dinner: Congressmen Fortenberry presents Knights of Columbus gift from Iraq

Aug 23, 2018
In The News

Former Huskers receiver and current Nebraska Associate Athletic Director for Football Matt Davison charmed the Schwertley Hall crowd with comical stories and insights into the program Saturday during the Knights of Columbus' annual Big Red Dinner.

Davison's inclusion helped sell out the 340-ticket Fort Calhoun event, which aids in funding the Knights' various charitable efforts throughout the year. Another guest, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, spoke of one such charitable effort during the event as well.

But the Nebraska great, Davison, who famously helped beat Missouri in 1997 with a diving touchdown catch, told stories of how he pushed for coach Scott Frost's hiring and gave clues as to how the new man in charge planned to lead the Huskers to the top of the Big Ten standings.

Before speaking to the crowd, Davison reflected back on his freshman season with Frost as his quarterback.

“Probably not, right?” he said when asked if he'd seen it all coming more than 20 years ago. “Scott didn't really decide he wanted to coach until 2006. We lived together 2002, 3, 4 — kind of three years maybe in there — and he was still playing in the NFL and he didn't really know what he wanted to do.”

Once Frost's career move became clear, though, Davison began to have hopes he'd end back up in Lincoln.

“When he started coaching, and really when he got to Oregon, I knew he was going to be a great coach,” the Big Red Dinner guest said. “Within in the last 4 or 5 years, I knew he had a great chance to be the coach here.”

Davison said Frost is looking to blend the Huskers' past and tradition with what works today in college football.

“There were certain things that we did for a long time around here that worked, and we got away from that for the last 15 years or so and we're going to go back to that,” Davison said. “That includes Husker Power, the walk-on program and making sure we develop offensive lineman.”

The Nebraska football program, which Blair High School graduate Ethan Cox is currently apart of, will also be about more than just sports, Davison said. When he played, coaches talked to players about more than just football.

The former receiver said legendary coach Tom Osborne regularly spoke about things more important than the game. Matters, he said, similar to the subject brought up by the Knights of Columbus' first guest speaker Saturday night.

Congressman Fortenberry stood at the podium prior to Davison, speaking on a topic directly related to the Knights of Columbus' charitable efforts over the last year. The St. John the Baptist Council 10305 in Fort Calhoun has put a lasting effort into the “Rebuilding the Cradle of Christianity” initiative, funding the construction of more than 80 homes in a predominantly Christian town in Iraq. Those Christians were driven from their homes by terrorism, genocide and war, according to a Catholic News Service story from March.

After his own trip to the town, Fortenberry returned and presented Mike Conrad of the Fort Calhoun Knights with an altar piece from the Chaldean Catholic Church Mart Adda in Karamless, Iraq. The piece, bearing the scars of an ISIS attack on the church, was presented by Fortenberry to the Fort Calhoun Knights of Columbus for its “steadfast work” in “assisting persecuted Christians in Iraq,” according to an inscription inside the altar piece's case.

While serious topics were discussed, Fortenberry and Davison also made those gathered in red laugh. The Nebraska radio announcer mentioned his trip with Frost to the first-ever ESPYS award show — a trip brought on by the aforementioned 1997 catch — wondering why the former quarterback was invited at all.

“He threw it to the wrong guy,” Davison joked about the pass kicked into the air by Shevin Wiggins. “... and I saved the day. We wouldn't know where he would be today (without me). Probably selling insurance in Wood River.”

After speaking, Davison asked for questions from the crowd, answering each until the end.

“One more question,” Davison said.

The attendee asked who the next Nebraska starting quarterback would be.

“OK, one more question,” the associate A.D. said to a room full of laughter. “Nice try.”

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