Barfknecht: 'Nebraska's Danny Woodhead' lives up to nickname in Husker spring game
LINCOLN — The football player Nebraska coach Mike Riley likes to call “our Danny Woodhead” showed at Saturday’s Red-White game why<a href="http://www.authenticbroncosshop.com/shop-by-players-sylvester-williams-jersey-c-1_25.html">Sylvester Williams Youth Jersey</a> that nickname isn’t just for fun.
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Wyatt Mazour, a sophomore walk-on from Albion, Nebraska, flashed his running, pass-catching and tackle-breaking skills while rushing six times for 60 yards and a touchdown and hauling in six passes for 81 yards.
Mazour’s stocky stature and low center of gravity at 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds — plus his speed bursts — can bring to mind Woodhead, a Division II All-American at Chadron State who is entering his ninth NFL season.
After the game, at least a dozen reporters surrounded Mazour, bringing a big smile from Riley as he returned to his office.
“Oh, my goodness. Look at that guy!” Riley exclaimed at the scene. “Nice job, Wyatt.”
Mazour offered a thank you and a smile in return. He also smiled in discussing his nickname of Woodhead, a player Riley once coached in the Hula Bowl college all-star game.
“It means a lot,” Mazour said. “Coach has been calling me that for a while. Just to be compared to someone that great who is in the <a href="http://www.authenticraiderssale.com/shop-by-players-sean-smith-jersey-c-2_47.html"> Sean Smith Womens Jersey</a> NFL and has done a lot in that league is just a blessing.”
His friends like the nickname for other reasons.
“They go, ‘What’s up, Danny?’ ” Mazour said, grinning. “They razz me about it, but it’s all in good fun. It’s a fun team to be around.”
Just being on the team this spring is fun for Mazour.
Last fall, he impressed the coaches enough with his special-teams work to earn a spot on the travel squad for the Indiana game. It would have been just the second game action in his career.
But in practice a few days before while on scout team, he suffered a concussion on an accidental helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker Josh Banderas.
It proved to be a season-ending injury. The dizziness and sensitivity to light forced him to miss nearly a month of classes, and he couldn’t drive for weeks. It took two months for a return to normal.
Mazour’s weight dropped to 183 during the concussion recovery, but he now has bulked back up to 195.
“It’s a blessing to still be able to play the sport I love,” he said. “I get out there and try to show what I’ve got every time, playing for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” There’s another comparison to Woodhead — a strong religious faith.
Mazour said he wasn’t gun-shy entering spring practice, just frustrated by the amount of rust he had accumulated from sitting out.
“Then I built up my confidence and was just having fun,” he said. “Last<a href="http://www.authenticsaintsshop.com/shop-by-players-khairi-fortt-jersey-c-1_26.html">http://www.authenticsaintsshop.com/shop-by-players-khairi-fortt-jersey-c-1_26.html</a> year, I was pretty tense. This year, I was a completely different person. And when I play loose, that’s when I play my best.”
Mazour played loose and got loose multiple times Saturday.
What looked like a no-gain running play turned into a 10-yard gain after Mazour broke four tackles. Another big cheer came off a short pass from freshman quarterback Tristan Gebbia that Mazour turned into a 27-yard gain.
Then after switching jerseys from white to red, Mazour capped a fourth-quarter drive by darting up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown.
The involvement of the running backs so heavily in Nebraska’s redesigned offense is a hit with Mazour.
“A lot of teams sleep on it because the back just leaks out,” he said. “It’s wide-open. I think you could see how important it is when you’re not trying to force a pass downfield, and instead take the check-down and still get five to seven yards.”
Mazour had scholarship offers out of high school from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Morningside, plus walk-on offers from <a href="http://www.authentic49ersshop.com/shop-by-players-joe-staley-jersey-c-1_30.html">http://www.authentic49ersshop.com/shop-by-players-joe-staley-jersey-c-1_30.html</a> Wyoming and Iowa State after those schools filled their scholarships.
But he picked Nebraska.
“I just wanted to play,” he said. “But I knew I could play here. I don’t think going to any other school would be as good as this one. It’s helping me as a man, as a student and as an athlete.”
And Mazour is providing valuable running back insurance for Nebraska now, with the hope of a bigger role to come.