Nebraska football: The 10 most valuable players of the past decade
The days of Tom Osborne running the show in Lincoln are long gone.
The past has given way to what has been a tumultuous decade for the Nebraska faithful. It’s a program that has had 1 winning season in the past 7 years and gone 39-46 in the Big Ten in the past 10 — yet still packs the stands for most home games.
Maybe it is hope that keeps that passion alive, even if Scott Frost has disappointed in recent years. For all intents and purposes, it seems Frost has one more season to revive a once-great college football titan.
It hasn’t all been bad though. The Huskers reached as high as 7th in the AP poll in 2016 and produced quite a few players whom Cornhuskers fans can either be proud of or thank for the media attention.
Let’s run through the top 10 most important and relevant players for Nebraska football across the past decade.
No. 10: Nate Gerry, DB (2013-2016)
“The White Snake” (what a nickname) is undoubtedly one of Nebraska’s more talented defensive backs in program history, certainly of the past decade.
Gerry appeared in all but 2 games during his 4-year tenure in Lincoln, ranking 2nd all-time in interceptions, just one away from the program record of 14 set by Dana Stephenson in the late 1960s.
Gerry was not able to play the final game of his college career before he was drafted 184th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. The senior safety missed the Huskers’ bowl game against Tennessee with an academic suspension.
Gerry finished his career at Nebraska with 273 tackles, ranking second among Cornhusker defensive backs in program history.
No. 9: Stanley Morgan, WR (2015-18)
There were not a lot of team records broken by Nebraska in the 2010s. There were plenty of individual players that stood out, though.
Throw wide receiver Stanley Morgan on that list. Morgan is Nebraska’s all-time leader in career receptions/yards and ranks 3rd in career touchdowns as a receiver. There’s more: He also holds the record for most receiving yards in a single season (1,004) and caught a pass in 38 straight games for Big Red.
Oh yeah, he also did this in 2017:
The game above was Morgan’s best of his career. He hauled in 7 receptions for 185 yards and 1 touchdown. The 185-yard performance is the 3rd-most receiving yards in a single game by a receiver in Huskers history.
No. 8: Jojo Domann, LB/DB (2016-2021)
Domann played at Nebraska for what seems like an eternity, recently graduating this past year before signing an undrafted contract with Indianapolis.
He’s a guy whom the Nebraska faithful loved to root for, one who didn’t exactly have the happy ending they would have loved to see him earn. Domann started 10 straight games in his final year before injuring his hand and missing the last 2. It’s also fair to say his hand injury hurt his draft stock and caused him to fall out of the top 262 this past cycle.
That last season was shaping up to be a special one, too. He earned a Senior Bowl invite, nabbed 2nd-team All-B1G honors and finished with 72 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions.
What a way to go out.
No. 7: Randy Gregory, DE (2013-2014)
A word that accurately describes Randy Gregory: Force.
Gregory was as violent as defensive ends come, earning B1G second- and third-team honors in his 2 seasons at Nebraska. He missed significant time in 2014 and still led the Huskers with a team-high 7 sacks and had 67 tackles to boot.
Gregory also nabbed an interception, forced a fumble and blocked a pair of field goals in the 2014 season. The second blocked kick of his career, against Minnesota, was returned by our old friend Nate Gerry for a touchdown.
Gregory shined in college but really struggled once he reached the NFL. He got off to a hot start — Gregory was drafted in the 2nd round by the Dallas Cowboys — but missed the majority of the 2016 season and the entirety of the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Then he missed two games of the 2018 season before missing all of 2019 for multiple violations. In total, Gregory has missed a potential of 54 NFL games. He kept going, though. In 2021, Gregory totaled 15 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 1 interception for the Cowboys in 12 games.
No. 6: Rex Burkhead, RB (2009-2012)
Super Bowl winner. New England Patriot. Nebraska Cornhusker.
This list recognizes those players from 2012 forward, so our pal Burkhead barely qualifies. To boot, his 2012 season was plagued with injury. The eligible sample size here is not large, but he made it anyway. That’s just the type of player he was.
Burkhead was an all-purpose Swiss Army Knife. His 2011 season especially was nothing short of incredible. He rushed for 15 touchdowns, hauled in 2 receptions for touchdowns and rushed for 1,357 yards.
No. 5: Taylor Martinez, QB (2010-2013)
The name Martinez has been a staple of Nebraska Cornhuskers football in the 2010s.
Before Adrian Martinez, there was Taylor Martinez. And he had wheels. Martinez was a dual-threat quarterback who would have shattered every Nebraska record for a quarterback had he played the full 2013 season. Instead, Martinez missed 9 games in 2013 with foot and shoulder issues.
But he’s still up there. Martinez trails only his namesake and one other for the most passing yards in a career and places 2nd in touchdowns thrown.
Martinez led the Huskers to the No. 5 spot in the AP in 2010. As just a freshman, Martinez led the Huskers to a No. 21 finish by the end of the season, throwing for 1,631 yards and 10 touchdowns.
No. 4: Cam Taylor-Britt, CB (2018-2021)
Cam Taylor-Britt was likely Nebraska’s strongest defensive back of the last decade.
More importantly, he was reliable and able to back up his talent. Taylor-Britt was selected 60th overall to the Bengals in 2022, representing the third-highest draft pick of the decade behind Ameer Abdullah and Cam Jurgens.
He is as hard-hitting as they come but surprisingly shifty in the open field. He totaled 5 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles during his 4 years at Nebraska, with a pick-6 against Iowa in 2019.
No. 3: Cam Jurgens, C (2020-2021)
Offensive lineman Cam Jurgens represents Nebraska’s highest-picked NFL draftee of the decade.
That’s significant, and it happened at a time when Nebraska didn’t have much to celebrate. the Cornhuskers had created solid prospects such as Abdullah and Burkhead, but Jurgens, who was drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles 51st overall, could be the most promising of all of them.
Jurgens started his 18th straight game at center to end the season. He earned 3rd-team All-B1G accolades. He led the Huskers to a prolific offensive performance against Fordham. It’s the only time in school history that the Huskers rushed and received for over 300 yards in the same game.
No. 2: Ameer Abdullah, RB (2011-2014)
Abdullah was the only Cornhusker on this list who was ever considered a Heisman Trophy candidate. He was, by all definitions of the word, an electric athlete to watch in college. He made some strides with the hapless Lions and slightly less hapless Vikings in the pro ranks as well.
He is 2nd in total yards rushing, behind only Mike Dozier, with 4,588 rushing yards across his 4 years for Nebraska. He finished his career with 46 total touchdowns: 39 rushing and 7 receiving.
I could keep throwing stats out there, but I’ll let Abdullah (and maybe some radio announcers, sad or otherwise) do the talking instead.
No. 1: Tommy Armstrong, QB (2013-2016)
It’s hard for No. 1 on the list to be anyone else. Armstrong leads nearly every statistical category a quarterback cares about and bridged the gap between Taylor and Adrain Martinez during integral years for the Cornhuskers program. There was not much for Nebraska fans to enjoy about these years, but it was Armstrong who practically willed them to show up in droves regardless.
Records aren’t everything, but let’s talk about them anyway.
Armstrong is Nebraska’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns thrown for the Big Red. Not only is he first, but he is first by a considerable margin. Armstrong threw 67 touchdowns in his 4 years in Lincoln and threw for 8,871 yards from scrimmage.
Armstrong led the Huskers to a 9-4 record his sophomore year, concluding with a 45-42 thriller loss to USC.