Blackshirts (football)

Blackshirts (football)

: "For other uses and meanings see Blackshirts (disambiguation)."

The Blackshirts is the name for the first-string defense of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.

The term originally dates back to the early 1960s and refers to the black practice jerseys that Nebraska's first-string defenders wear in practice. The first string defense came to wear black practice jerseys in 1964, when a defensive coach went to a local sporting goods store to get yellow practice jerseys, and black was the only color available. The defensive coach and Bob Devaney decided that black practice jerseys would make identifying their defensive starters much easier during practices. Quickly identifying starting players, made coaching them much more efficient. The "Blackshirts" were originally and still are, a tool for the coaches. Long-time sports information director Don Bryant credits much of Blackshirt mystique to defensive line coach George Kelly, who served on Coach Bob Devaney's staff until 1968. Kelly was often heard yelling and exhorting the Blackshirts during practices and scrimmages. Eventually, the rest of the coaches began calling the top defensive units by the same name.

Blackshirts are now awarded to Defensive starters and other key defensive players. Punters at Nebraska are often honored by the defense also, including Jesse Kosch who was awarded a Blackshirt for his efforts from 1994 to 1997. Besides the black practice jersey the Blackshirts also have a black circle on the back of their helmet. These players will often cross their arms in an X across their chests, representing the skull and crossbones, a longtime logo for the Blackshirts. This is called "Throwing the Bones." The defensive players not awarded a Blackshirt wear red practice jerseys, while offensive players wear white practice jerseys.

On October 16, 2007, the defensive players and coaches made a joint decision to remove the Blackshirts [] . The first player to remove his Blackshirt was Senior captain Zackary Bowman [] who felt he wasn't playing up to the standards of the Blackshirt Tradition.

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