All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.
On Wednesday's episode, Carriker talks to former Nebraska receiver Brandon Reilly about his decision to retire from professional football, Husker memories, transitioning from hockey to football in high school and more.
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Check out a full transcript below:
Adam Carriker: Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, the people’s show, where we check the pulse of Husker Nation, brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today I am joined by a former Husker wide receiver. He was a seven-time Nebraska Scholar Athlete Honor Roll, also a four-time Academic All-Big 10, and he just retired from the NFL. How are you doing today, Brandon Reilly?
Brandon Reilly: I’m doing good, how bout yourself?
Adam Carriker: I’m good, man, I want to thank you for joining me. I want to start at the beginning of the journey and then we’ll work our way up to today. How’s that sound?
Brandon Reilly: That sounds good.
Adam Carriker: Alright, so when you were deciding to go to Nebraska or elsewhere, you had scholarship offers but decided to walk-on at Nebraska. Tell me about that decision.
Brandon Reilly: Actually, I technically had zero offers, but a lot of the smaller schools said if I took a visit there, they’d offer me. But it really wasn’t a tough decision for me, obviously. Growing up around here, playing for Nebraska wasn’t always the dream because hockey was my main sport growing up. As I got older, after my junior year of high school, I started to play a little bit better. Coach Barney Cotton came to Southwest and offered me that walk-on spot and it was a no-brainer for me.
Adam Carriker: People know you played hockey, but talk about the transition from hockey to football and what led you to want to play football?
Brandon Reilly: Hockey wasn’t big enough around here. I would have had to move away and live with a host family for high school. That’s what my brother did, but I had a close friend group and didn’t want to leave my family and friends so it was a tough decision to hang it up. I was much better at hockey than anything back then. I decided to do high school sports around here and told myself I’d make this route work. Eventually, I did that.
Adam Carriker: JJ Watt used to play hockey too, ya know. I’ve always said that side to side, pushing off, those are explosive movements that could help with football too. Talk about when you learned you had earned a scholarship. What was that like and what transpired around it?
Brandon Reilly: It’s actually kind of a funny story and probably my most memorable moment at Nebraska. For walk-ons, they usually give out scholarships in Fall Camp. Mine happened in the Summer. I actually received mine the same day as Sam Foltz, so that hits home for me there and that’s why it’s the most memorable moment for me. My phone was broken and coach was trying to get ahold of me. He ended up getting a hold of Kenny Bell, who ended up getting a hold of my brother, who ended up getting a hold of me, somehow. He told me, “Hey, your coach needs to see you.” I’m thinking, okay, what could I possibly have done wrong? Every bad thing goes through your mind.
So I raced up to the stadium and that’s how I found out. I lived with Sam Foltz at the time and saw him at the book store. There’s a scholarship window where you go there. So I saw him, we didn’t really say much because you weren’t supposed to say a whole lot about it. We got home that night and asked what he was doing at the book store. It was kind of a surreal moment for us. We talked about when we walked on together that that was the goal. That’s the story and it’s one that I’ll always remember.
Adam Carriker: That’s obviously a phenomenal moment for you and Sam when you achieved that. Talk about Sam, your relationship with him, and what he meant to the football team.
Brandon Reilly: Absolutely. I didn’t know him that great in high school, obviously he’s from Grand Island. We got to know each other playing against one another in basketball, football, and track. He was much better than I was in track. When our class walked on together, we wanted to be a difference making class. We had a lot of guys that played. Foltz came in as a receiver with me, but saw an opportunity at punter. He took that and ran with it. I like to tell people, usually you don’t see a punter be a leader in the weight room and conditioning, but that was Sam. He’s hang cleaning 315 and winning sprints. When you’re out there, you’re like, I can’t let the punter beat me, so everyone has to go to that next level. He truly was just an all-around athlete and great guy.
Adam Carriker: Now, you and Sam walked on and earned scholarships. Outside the locker room, a little way down the hallway is a list of guys who walked on and were All-Americans, All-Pros, I mean this is not a short list, ladies and gentlemen. Brandon, talk to me about the importance of the walk-on program at Nebraska and the impact it could have on future success.
Brandon Reilly: I think it’s huge. I know a lot of schools harp on the walk-on program, but over the years at Nebraska it’s been big. I know Frost is trying to get it back to where it needs to be. It’s one of those things where if a guy doesn’t want to get in there and do the dirty work, a walk-on will step in there and do those things. A lot of guys around here grow up living, breathing, dying Husker Football, so when guys get a chance to get out there, they’re not going to sell-out a teammate no matter what. They’re going to give it their all. A lot of walk-ons in the program now are going to step up and make an impact.
Adam Carriker: What, or who, had the biggest impact on your career?
Brandon Reilly: Keith Williams. It’s kind of a no-brainer for me. When he came in as our receiver coach, I had six career catches at that time. He took my game and mindset to the next level. No matter where I’ve been, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, he’s texted me before every game with reminders on things to do. He’s always been there. Even though I’m done with football now, he’s still there for me. So, no doubt, Keith Williams.
Adam Carriker: That’s pretty cool. You have your college wide receiver coach on a Sunday, breaking down film from the previous Saturday and still helping you get ready for your game on Sunday. That’s pretty unique, by the way. Talk about your most memorable moment on the field at Nebraska.
Brandon Reilly: Obviously the Michigan State game is up there pretty big. But my last game, a bowl game against Tennessee- each game we had a Sam Foltz captain of the week. I received it for our final game and it was a bowl game. It was my last game as a Husker, and that game was probably what got me to the next level.
Adam Carriker: It’s funny, I’ll never forget my last game in Memorial Stadium playing against Colorado. It helps that we won. I feel like I had a pretty good game that particular day. That last time you’re in Memorial Stadium wearing Husker red and white always sticks out to you. Though, I think most fans are going to remember that game-winning touchdown against undefeated Michigan State in 2015, who was #7 at the time. What sticks out most to you about your NFL career?
Brandon Reilly: I guess the uncertainty sticks out the most. Going into it, I had a feeling of what it would be like. Fortunately, I decided to go to Buffalo as a free agent. I had a few options, but I thought that was the best choice for me. It turned out to be. I had a great staff and great group of teammates. I still touch base with a lot of those guys today. I plan to go watch them this season. But I just lived in the moment, you know, it can be gone just like that. Every day, I never took anything for granted. I truly loved every second of it.
Adam Carriker: What was your experience like in the XFL, and what was it like when the league shut down because of COVID-19?
Brandon Reilly: Yeah, it was a great experience. Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Getting down there, having DeMornay Pierson-El on my team, a familiar face, it was good to play with him again. We held each other to a high standard, so we weren’t slacking off there. Met a good group of guys, there were a lot who played in the league for a while. It was good football, unfortunately with the whole COVID-19 thing shutting it down when we left, they said just the second half of the season was cancelled but they were going to have it again next year. We were excited about that, but things turned and it’s not going to happen. It’s definitely a time I won’t forget.
Adam Carriker: I’ve seen you back at the Hawks practice facility, watching practice a couple times. What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen from the Huskers through two years of Scott Frost, and as we enter a third year this Fall under Scott Frost?
Brandon Reilly: I had a feeling the turnover would be rocky at the start. It was a little rockier than I expected, but that’s how it goes. I definitely think Frost is the right guy to lead this team. Obviously we needed a big offseason this year. With no bowl practices and no spring ball, it’s unfortunate for us. I’m sure those guys have a plan on how they’re going to get the team ready. Not sure how many fans will be able to be there this season, but I’m sure they’re going to put a good product on the field and make us proud.
Adam Carriker: Who do you see as the next great Husker pass catcher, whether he’s a wide receiver, tight end, or otherwise?
Brandon Reilly: I’m not sure of the whole JD Spielman situation or what’s going on there. But if he comes back, he’s obviously the next great one in line. He’s had a heck of a career so far. As for a younger guy, it’s Ty Hahn. When he was in high school, he reached out and we had the same trainer here, so I went and worked out with him some. He’s a gifted athlete. I’m not sure how much impact he’ll make his first year, but over the course of his career, I could see him being a big-name guy.
Adam Carriker: What is next for you?
Brandon Reilly: That’s the million-dollar question right now. I’m trying to figure that out. I have a few different interests. I’m just taking it one day at a time, listening to people from different companies. I’m trying not to rush into anything that I don’t want to do, but the clock’s ticking and I definitely need to find a job sometime soon. I don’t know what will be next, I could be real estate, insurance, medical sales, coaching- it’s a flip of a coin right now.
Adam Carriker: Well if you want some advice from an old guy, you talk about the uncertainty of the NFL. It’s interesting, because there’s this image of everyone making millions, owning private jets, etc. I’ll never forget my first year in the NFL, some of my wife’s friends, who live back in Brule, Nebraska, where they have one stop sign, were like “When are you taking your jet back to see us?” I thought they were kidding. They were serious! I was like, uhhh….. But the reality is, well over half the league doesn’t have a lot of job security and there is a lot of stress to it. My advice would be, take a little bit of a break and enjoy your time. I took a little break, and it was huge for me. You’re a bright guy. I’m sure you’ll have no problem figuring out what you’re going to do next.
But as you’re enjoying that process, do you have a message for Husker fans?
Brandon Reilly: Absolutely, not just the fans, but the media members and reporters too. I always appreciated that everyone was great to me and they still are. I always appreciated over the years even when I was in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, Husker fans were always reaching out and showing up to the games. Those are the memories you don’t forget and what makes Nebraska fans, reporters, and members the greatest in the country. I truly believe that. Good times are ahead for Nebraska and I can’t wait to be in the stands cheering them on.
Adam Carriker: Well thanks for joining me, and until next time Husker Nation, Go Big Red, and always remember…
Brandon Reilly: Throw the bones!
Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.