Shatel: Mickey Joseph’s career has been building toward this. Now the real talk begins Saturday | Grand Island Sports

LINCOLN — The son of New Orleans learned the lesson a long time ago.

It became a mantra of Mickey Joseph’s life, along with all the tough breaks and situations that try a young man’s faith and soul.

“Shake everything off and you move on.”

It’s what Joseph did in 1990 when a freakish injury at Oklahoma basically ended his playing career. He moved into coaching.

It’s what Joseph did when Hurricane Katrina disbanded his team at Desire Street Academy in the rough-and-tumble Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Of the 196 boys in the Desire Street Academy, only 95 initially were found (eventually they all were). Many were separated from their parents and their homes destroyed.

Joseph took the majority of those 95 to a 4-H camp in Florida and became their surrogate father, their mentor. Their strength.

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And then there were all the hard knocks as Joseph bounced along the backroads of college football, from Division II Langston to Alcorn State to Grambling and Louisiana Tech.

Joseph always kept his head up. His eyes straight ahead. The flame beneath his dreams alive.

That’s who Nebraska’s interim football coach is and what he’s all about.

There’s no good time to be an interim coach. That means somebody got fired. That means things aren’t good.

Joseph, who replaces Scott Frost, isn’t the first interim coach in Nebraska history. But he’s the first to take over during the regular season.

The Huskers are 1-2. There are nine games left. Starting with Oklahoma.

This is no way to get an audition.

But it’s here, perhaps quicker than the speculation that followed Joseph from LSU to Lincoln last winter that he was being earmarked as the next head coach.

The whispers were that Joseph, a high in demand teacher and recruiter, would not have come back for one season. There had to be something else at play down the road.

The future arrived without warning on Sunday morning, fell in Joseph’s lap as he sat stunned hearing that Frost had been fired after three games.

Shake everything off. Move on.

Joseph has to help a football team — and a fan base — move on. He got the process going on Tuesday during a packed house news conference.

It was the kind of media reception you get for a head coach’s introduction. But there were no smiles or celebrations.

From his first sentence, Joseph was all business. He was firm, but encourage. He did not have to search for answers to questions.

Joseph has a plan. He’s been building for this moment his whole career. The moment is here.

But how do you prepare for this?

Athletic Director Trev Alberts is looking for a program builder. Joseph might be that guy. But he can’t build an offensive line in nine games.

He’s got two months to get the Huskers to change how they approach and play the game.

Nine games. What would be success? A bowl game? That would mean winning five out of nine. Six out of nine would be a winning record.

You’d certainly have to take a hard look at Joseph then. But for Joseph, it likely will come down to intangibles, gray area stuff.

Can he inject urgency into the way Nebraska plays? Infuse a combo of energy and confidence? Get the players to take more responsibility?

To play as one unit like they absolutely have to win the game?

Joseph will likely use a formula he’s used with his receivers’ room. Real Talk, he calls it.

Telling his players the truth at all times. That forms a bond. And then Joseph drives it home with what he calls “an iron fist.”

He’s done it time and again with receivers. Now Joseph has to do it with an entire team.

He has begun the CEO life already. Moving defensive coordinator Erik Chinander to coaching safeties. Having the team do more live tackling this week.

That’s bound to help. But the keys for Mickey and his Huskers these next two months figure to be all in the head.

Joseph says he is already feeding his players confidence and belief in themselves.

Can the power of persuasion work? Joseph believes in reaching young men.

When told that a current Husker said the team has a “losing culture,” Joseph disagreed. And then said he had to do a better job with the players before they go to do interviews.”

That’s the iron first. That’s the coach sounding like a parent or mentor. And it’s right out of the Nick Saban playbook.

How far can motivation get you? If it cleans up the little mistakes and details, NU may make some hay in the Big Ten.

A winning record is a must. But Joseph isn’t going to win eight or nine games.

But if he can push the players’ buttons and get them to play harder and better than they ever imagined, and get the entire team on board, that will be hard to ignore, too.

This isn’t a long shot. Alberts is a big fan of Joseph. And it wouldn’t be surprising if Alberts tried to keep Joseph around the program going forward even if he’s not head coach.

But he is the interim head coach. And Joseph looks ready. He won the press conference. But the real talk begins Saturday.


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