11.01.2011 / The Blackshirts are back. Blog posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.

The Nebraska defense was back in black on Monday. The regulars on defense found black jerseys hanging at their lockers prior to practice. The Blackshirts had returned, literally.

"So more than 11 were awarded on Monday. But they came with no guarantees."

“It’s still kind of surreal to see black out of the corner of my eye,” redshirted freshman defensive tackle Chase Rome said.   He was wearing a black No. 97 jersey.  “Now, you know, we have something to defend. It’s not just going out and doing the same thing,” he said. “This is the standard we have to continue to play to.”

The Blackshirt tradition dates to 1964 and has evolved over the years. Originally, only the 11 starters had the coveted black practice jerseys. But the game has changed dramatically, requiring more than 11 playing significant roles. So more than 11 were awarded on Monday.  But they came with no guarantees.

“One thing our guys understand is that it’s something you earn and continue to earn,” coach Bo Pelini said. “Just because you put the Blackshirt on doesn’t change anything.  “It should make you want to play that much harder, to live up to the standards that surround that shirt and tradition. It’s something our kids fully understand.  “They understand what it means to actually put one on.”

The defense is coming off a stellar performance in a 24-3 victory against Michigan State. The Spartans were limited to 187 total yards and the lone field goal.  But play in a game isn’t the only criterion, or even the most important.

“I put a lot of stock into practice more than what happens on Saturday,” said Pelini. “It’s a culmination of how you practice and prepare and timing. I really don’t care what people outside (the program) think about when or why you should give them out.   “It’s something you talk about as a staff, and when you feel like the time is right, you go for it.”

At one time, Blackshirts were awarded before the season, at the end of fall camp. But that has changed until Pelini, who has held off awarding them until the season is well underway.  “It isn’t something simple that should be granted,” he said. “We talked a lot last week as a whole football team about how we play to a certain standard. To me, that means practicing to a certain standard. Have we reached the standard that we want? No, we haven’t.

“But when you start heading in that direction, preparing well and doing the right things, to me, that’s a signal that guys get it.”

For more great content on the Huskers, check out Huskers Illustrated Magazine and

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