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Parrella’s blue-collar approach rubbing off on players

As Nebraska wrapped up their practice last Saturday inside Memorial Stadium there were a group of players on the field for an extra 30+ minutes working on different techniques.

That group of players was made up primarily of NU’s younger defensive linemen and they were being led by first-year position coach John Parrella.

The Grand Island native has always been known for his work ethic, which is a big reason why he lasted 12 years in the National Football League (1993-2004) before breaking into coaching in 2009. If anything has stood out about Parrella’s early time in Lincoln, he’s trying to set the tone early with his players on what it’s going to take to meet his expectation levels.

“(Parrella) tells us we can be a good defensive or we could be a great defensive line,” sophomnore defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun said. “Of course we want to be a great defensive line even if that means if we have to stay after and do more work than everybody else.”

And that’s the biggest thing Parrella has tried to preach to his younger defensive linemen. When you see guys like Alex Davis, Daishon Neal, Carols Davis, Khalil Davis and Akinmoladun, the sky is the limit with their overall potential level.

The biggest thing is putting in the time to get to that level.

“If you are an NFL player and you just go to practice and go home, you aren’t going to be worth a (expletive),” Parrella said. “Guys have to work after practice. They have to work pre-practice, they have to work all summer. You’ll find out real quick how good somebody is when they come back in the off-season, because they put time in. This is a 20-hour work week for those guys. If they are just putting in 20 hours a week, well then good luck. I don’t want them.

“I want guys that are going to do that on their own, vs. spending time at home and getting extra reps in. A lot of this stuff you don’t wake up knowing how to do it. It’s learning behavior. They have to learn how to do it on their own. I think this group is going to come back in August ready to go.”

Parrella’s playing experience in the NFL also gives his teaching and coaching methods instant credibility with the players, which has made this an easy transition.

“He played for 11 years or so in the league,” senior defensive end Ross Dzuris said of Parrella. “That experience and he’s got a lot of information from a lot of coaches in the NFL. Being able to have him pass that on to us, it’s been great. It’s been fun getting to know that much.”

Through 10 spring practices Parrella has seen a lot of progress from his young defensive linemen, and he loves the potential guys have.

The key is taking what they learned this spring and continuing to build that “potential” over the summer months.

“They are a little nutty in a good way,” Parrella joked of his young defensive linemen. “They get a little crazy. The twins, you know they are all great guys off the field, but I think the little ‘inner animal’ is trying to fight its way out and I’m loving it. We have a long way to go. I’m glad we are not playing until September. We have a long way to go.”