Nebraska's Niles Paul hears heckling
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Already down in the dumps after he dropped two touchdown passes against Texas, Nebraska's Niles Paul felt worse after a group of Cornhusker fans verbally abused him as he walked from Memorial Stadium to his car after the 20-13 loss.
Amid the buildup for last week's grudge match with the Longhorns, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and athletic director Tom Osborne implored fans to be nice to the visitors from Texas. Maybe they should have addressed the fans about their treatment of the home team.
"It hurts that people were yelling stuff at me. It's disrespectful," Paul said Tuesday. "As an athlete I have to keep my cool and stay focused because I don't want to do something to put my situation in jeopardy."
Paul's experience runs counter to the reputation of Nebraska fans, who are praised nationally for their knowledge of the game and the warm reception they give visiting players, coaches and fans.
Nebraska fans have a tradition of applauding visiting teams as they exit the field, win or lose. And above each stadium entrance reads a sign that says, "Through These Gates Pass the Greatest Fans in College Football."
As Paul walked with family members to his car after the game, he said, several Nebraska fans began harassing him.
"You lost us the game. Texas can have you," Paul said, recalling the taunts.
Paul said one of his brothers acted as if he were going to chase one of the hecklers, but Paul held him back.
Paul said he deactivated his Facebook page Saturday night because a number of nasty messages appeared.
"I can't deal with that," he said. "People kind of use me as a scapegoat and say mean things to me on Facebook for making a mistake that receivers make or being human in a game."
Paul said the verbal abuse surprised him.
"I have to realize I'm not playing for the fans," he said. "I'm playing for my coaches and the team and I was more upset I let down my team more than anything."
Pelini, like all coaches, has taken abuse from fans when things don't go as they hoped.
Does he ever want to punch hecklers?
"Yeah, honestly, you do want to," Pelini said.
But Pelini said he resists the urge and lets criticism bounce off him. He told Paul to do the same.
"Niles is a prideful guy," Pelini said. "He didn't have the type of game he wanted to have. It doesn't help the situation when that happens. It makes him even madder. He'll respond very well to the whole thing."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press