Bill Busch went to work Tuesday morning for the first time in his new role as a defensive analyst for the Nebraska football program.
Technically speaking, he’s not an on-field coach in this role, although he can help implement schemes and be in meetings.
But don’t get too caught up in the details here. Husker head coach Scott Frost got a steal with this hire.
“I don’t think the title tells you a whole lot about the kind of contribution he’s likely to make,” said Brandon Rigoni, vice president of business development at Lincoln Industries and an excellent special-teams player for Nebraska as a letterman from 2004-06, when Busch was in charge of those units.
A walk-on from Lincoln Southeast, Rigoni says Busch basically was the first coach at NU to give him a chance to contribute.
“He’s going to have an influence and an impact,” Rigoni said. “He’s not a guy who sits in the background. That’s just not who he is. I don’t think he would get into a situation where he couldn’t have a strong impact.”
The 55-year-old Busch, who grew up in Pender (population 1,112) in Thurston County, spent 2004-07 at Nebraska under head coach Bill Callahan coaching outside linebackers (2004) and safeties (2005-07) while also serving as the special-teams coordinator. It would be surprising if Frost wouldn’t somehow find a way to tap deep into Busch’s special-teams acumen. At the risk of sounding glib, the Huskers could use some help in that area, the sooner the better.
Did I mention this feels like a significant hire for Frost? If the fourth-year Nebraska head coach was seeking a burst of energy in his program, it arrived Tuesday. I’ve said it before: Busch tends to make things happen. He’s a 4 a.m. riser and an all-day grinder. To say he’s enthusiastic about what he does in this world is an understatement. He basically willed his way into being a college football coach in the early 1990s, going so far as to buy — on his own dime — the same coaching uniform worn by the Husker staff, even though he wasn’t technically part of that staff.
Long story short, Busch landed a gig as a Nebraska graduate assistant under Tom Osborne and eventually kept climbing the coaching ladder elsewhere. In 2004, he was hired by Callahan. Now, Frost. In order to work a third stint at NU, Busch turned down an offer to be a co-defensive coordinator at Boise State. Bottom line, he wants to be in Lincoln. His wife, Laura, has been a realtor here for years even as he worked elsewhere. His parents live in Creighton (population 1,154) in Knox County. This is home. Home is powerful.
Getting Nebraska on track is genuinely important to Busch. Truth be told, NU always has been important to him, dating to the days when he would drive on his own to away games and walk into the stadium with the full-time staff. Mind you, he wasn’t being paid. He was doing what he had to do to get his foot in the door. After all these years, his story just keeps getting better. What a story it would be if he helps get Frost’s program rolling.
“You know how Bill is. He’s energetic. He’s funny. Which is important, right?” Rigoni said. “That sounds goofy to say. But when you’re grinding every day, 12 to 14 hours a day or more on a coaching staff, having somebody who brings that energy can be important. I think what probably has made him such an effective recruiter is he blends humor with the fact he’s truly a caring relationship builder. He’s kept in touch with me ever since I was done playing, just because he cared.
“My guess is he has 300 past players that he regularly communicates with. He gets it.”
Let’s be clear, though: Busch can coach. He’s not just a recruiter. Far from it. Ask former Nebraska cornerback Zack Bowman or safety Daniel Bullocks. Busch was the national defensive backs coach of the year in 2012 at Utah State. But one thing NU fans know by now is even the greatest coaches sometimes fade into the background if they find themselves with a roster short on talent. Ever hear of Bill Belichick? The New England Patriots slid to 7-9 this season because the roster lacked horses, including a certain quarterback.
LSU lost a ton of talent from its 2019 national championship team and slid to 5-5 in 2020. There was a staff shakeup and Busch became available for Frost. And, yes, a lot of former Huskers noticed the news Monday. That list includes Bowman, who retired from the NFL in 2015 and now lives in Omaha.
Busch used to call Bowman every day at 5:30 a.m. when Bowman was a star junior college player at New Mexico Military Institute.
“He wanted to make sure I was up early and wasn’t missing roll call,” Bowman said. “He stayed on me. He was very consistent. I thank him for that. I was in my second semester, and a lot of my friends had left town. I was kind of there by myself and had to finish the work.”
Busch is diligent and aggressive as a recruiter. As a coach, he’s always organized and prepared, according to Bullocks, the safeties coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s also about the energy that he brings,” Bullocks said. “He’s one of the more energetic coaches I’ve been around. It’s always positive reinforcement, and you always know where he stands. He’s going to bring that energy every day. With some guys, they’re in a good mood one day and the next day they’re not. But with him, win or lose, he’s always bringing that energy.
“Players feed off that. You can tell he loves coming to work every day.”
William Shakespeare said “home” is one of the most powerful words known to man. Busch is home again. That alone can mean a lot.