Randy York’s N-Sider
This is the story about the life and times of a kid who grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with great expectations. A serious student and a talented athlete, the kid became a young man who met those expectations. Trev Alberts was happy, productive and always felt like he lived in the sweet spot of a loving, driven, balanced family that was led by a father who left the house every morning in a suit and came home at 5 o’clock every night to change into his farm clothes. Ken Alberts, his father, would then drive 35 miles to work 350 acres of corn and soybeans. A general manager of a utility company by day and a farmer by night, Trev’s dad was gone 15 hours a day, five days a week. “My mother and father had extraordinarily high expectations for all three of their children,” Trev said when he learned Nebraska fans had voted him one of the Huskers' Top Eight Blackshirts over the last 50 years – an honor formally recognized Saturday on Tom Osborne Field.
“My dad believed in accountability, and he believed in discipline,” Alberts recalled. “He was a no excuses guy, an extraordinarily hard worker, an executor in everything he did. He had great balance. Our faith and our family were very important.” Trev’s dad was an elder in his church, and his kids can’t remember missing a Sunday. Growing up, basketball was Trev’s No. 1 sport, and he was asked to play on a high-level AAU team. Practices were Wednesday nights, and his dad said he would not be able to practice on a church night. On the first weekend of AAU basketball, Trev’s team won all of its games, and the championship game was set for Sunday. Trev’s dad nixed that, too, because it interfered with church. Three weeks later, the coach could see things weren’t going to change, and he admitted that maybe Trev shouldn’t play AAU basketball. “My father was unwavering in his principles,” Trev said. “He was as passionate about Wednesday night church and Sunday morning services as he was about his day job and his farming. He was a very, very, very strong presence and a strong leader, and my mother was the nurturing, supportive mom who was the greatest cook you’ll ever see.” With great parents, an older brother and a younger sister, Trev Alberts literally thought he had the greatest upbringing in the world because they all knew the value of hard work, and they looked at the world through their own great expectations.
Alberts’ Parents Were Iowa Hawkeye Fans
Trev knew his parents weren’t perfect, and he also knew they were flexible. Iowa Hawkeye fans, they wanted their son to play in the Big Ten Conference in the early 1990s. They even wanted him to commit early after visiting Iowa City. Somehow, the late John Melton and Tom Osborne convinced them to hold off. “They went with me on my visit to Nebraska,” Trev recalled. “My dad knew Coach Osborne had all the values I was raised with. He knew he was a guy with a moral compass and could take me to another level by affirming the values and principles I already had. Unlike other coaches and other programs, Coach Osborne wouldn’t practice on Sundays. He wouldn’t even have meetings. He felt that was one day for everyone to focus on whatever faith they had.”
From the minute he stepped on Nebraska’s campus to the day Alberts left as a first-round NFL draft choice, Osborne had a significant impact on a life that was grounded in his faith. Alberts became a First-Team All-American and a First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-American. He became the Huskers’ first Butkus Award winner in 1993, the same season he helped lead unbeaten Nebraska into a national championship Orange Bowl game, which resulted in an 18-16 loss to Florida State. A senior co-captain, Alberts was an All-American in every major publication. He was the Big Eight Conference Male Athlete of the Year, the Big Eight Defensive MVP, the Football News’ National Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year. He also earned the highest NCAA honor, a Top Six Award.
Trev Kept End in Mind, Saw Bigger Picture
Alberts graduated from Nebraska before his senior year because he did three things Osborne asks all players to do – 1) Keep the end in mind; 2) Make decisions based on your goals and objectives; and 3) Have a spiritual life that stretches beyond your mental and physical activities. Trev stayed focused on the script and emerged from his highly decorated academic and athletic career with a full understanding that he had been part of something much bigger than himself. “We had great people, great fans and great coaches,” he said. “The camaraderie of the players was exceptional. We had it all. We had Coach Osborne’s leadership that was based on unity. In my mind I think it was true that we had the best academic support in the country. We had the best Training Table in the country and the best people leading it. We had the best strength and conditioning program in the country; and we had the best trainers in the country. Every single component of my student-athlete experience was exceptional because they had a plan for it; they had a program for it; they had great people for it; and they had passion for it. By and large, everybody was working together, and everybody was unified.”
Unified became an important word when Alberts became Director of Athletics at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Since 2009, he has worked diligently to build efficiencies within the department and to refine UNO’s business model, so the institution can better serve its student-athletes, coaches, staff and the community as a whole. It should come as no surprise that Alberts continues to seek and to receive counsel from his former head football coach. “What’s really amazing to me,” Alberts said. “is other than my folks, if I had a question, I’d ask Coach Osborne and whatever he told me, that’s what I did. We had some issues here, and I asked for his counsel. He was a second father to a lot of people, that’s for sure, and a first to a lot of others.”
Osborne Never Took Credit, Always Took Heat
Alberts and his wife Angela have three children – Chase (who joined his dad on the field Saturday), Ashtynne and Breanna, and they know how much their husband and dad look up to Coach Osborne. “His humility is remarkable,” Trev said. “I never saw Coach Osborne try to take credit for anything, but he’d be the first one to stand up and take the heat. He never passed the buck. I never saw him waver in the face of adversity. Coach Osborne just has a presence to him, a demeanor that exudes everything. Whenever there was a challenge, we knew we’d get through it. Coach Osborne had a great confidence about him, and that was pretty impactful to me.”
Faith was an influential factor for Alberts. “It’s pretty cool when you think with the end in mind,” he said. “The grand scheme of things seems so significant at the moment, but when you view and interject faith as part of the conversation, it’s all pretty small.” Alberts still marvels at how many full devotional services he attended at Nebraska. “We always had a Catholic service and a non-denominational service. They were great one-hour services, but never mandatory,” Alberts said. “Some of the most powerful messages I’ve ever heard were delivered an hour before the football game. Sometimes, Coach Osborne would do it and often times, he would invite former players in to do it. People weren’t required to go, but they wanted to go.”
Credits Defensive Coaches Samuel, McBride
As much trust as he put in his parents and in Coach Osborne, Alberts cannot imagine how his Nebraska career might have gone without Tony Samuel and Charlie McBride being part of it. “Coach Samuel was one of the best rush ends coach I’ve ever been around, and Coach McBride was coordinating the defense while Coach Osborne was the head coach in charge of the offense,” Alberts said. “Coach McBride communicated and educated all of us what it meant to get a Blackshirt. It wasn’t about us being a Blackshirt. It was about all those people who wore them 10, 15, 20 or 30 years before we did. Expectations and style and play were fully invested, emotionally, physically, spiritually and culturally. Those before us paid the price, and everyone knew what a privilege it was to wear a Blackshirt and why it was important to play together, to play hard and to represent Nebraska with the absolute best we had in us every day. The value of the entire state was near and dear to everyone’s hearts.”
Alberts compared the experience to someone working hard for years before purchasing a car to someone who might get one on a 16th birthday. “It’s the difference in investment,” he said. “If it’s given to you, you may or may not treat it well. If you work your whole life to pay for the car, you might have a little different view of the power of that car, right? Our coaches, our staff and our players all understood the history of the Blackshirts and why it was so important. We all know that life changes, the game changes and you have to move on, but you want to be the one who pays in full, just like Larry Jacobson and Rich Glover and all the other Blackshirts did. When someone invested long before you did, you start to take that responsibility pretty seriously. I know I did, and I think everyone else who knows and understands our history does, too.”
Send a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org (Include town/city, state)
Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider
Randy’s N-Sider Blog Archive
Randy’s N-Sider Column Archive