Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini wrestled 4-star offensive line recruit Tanner Farmer during a recent at-home visit, earning another notch on his belt in his quest to become the Big Ten version of Steve Spurrier.
Per Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald:
I bet you can't take me down, Pelini joked with Tanner. Farmer hesitated. Pelini is pretty tall and in good shape. But he's not a wrestler.
Go on, boy, Brian [Farmer, Tanner's dad] told his son. If he wants to go, go.
You scared to take me down? Pelini said to Tanner.
The strongest player in Nebraska's 2014 class got Pelini in a hold and lifted him up in the air. There, a potential takedown turned into a big hug between coach and player.
“It was a cool moment,” Brian said.
Farmer, a 6'3'', 302-pound offensive lineman from Highland Park, Ill., was the No. 251 overall player and No. 16 guard in the country, per the 247Sports composite. He's also the highest-ranked recruit in Nebraska's newest class.
Along with 4-star tackle Nick Gates and 3-star guard D.J. Foster, Farmer headlines a solid group of incoming offensive linemen for the Huskers, who could use it in the notoriously physical Big Ten.
"We're going to have one hell of a line together," Farmer said, according to McKewon. "I can't wait to see what kind of havoc we wreak."
For Pelini, a couple of months ago this move would have looked out of character. His dour, vacant sideline countenance is the butt of many jokes. He seemed more like a man with zero personality than a coach with an endearing one.
That all began to change, however, when Pelini interacted with his famous Twitter parody account, @FauxPelini. Fake Bo Pelini has almost 75,000 followers and features an avatar of the real Pelini wearing a gray sweater, holding a cat.
On Jan. 6, out of nowhere, the real Pelini tweeted this:
@FauxPelini ok enough is enough... I want my cat back. You've had her long enough!— Bo Pelini (@BoPelini) January 7, 2014
It was perfect.
Since then, Pelini has slowly and amazingly started coming out of his shell, revealing himself to be one of the silliest coaches in college football.
Appearing on the Big Ten Network during national signing day, he even took the cat joke one step further by thanking his feline friend for her help on the recruiting trail:
To a cynical mind, Pelini's new-found warmth might seem like damage control.
Early last season, Deadspin leaked an audio file of the coach from 2011, yelling what he thought were private expletives about Nebraska fans. Between that and the Huskers relative lack of success, whispers started to gather and there was speculation about Pelini's future with the team, whether he was long for his job.
Since then, admittedly, those murmurs have started to hush.
Cat jokes and impromptu wrestling matches won't be enough to save his job—at some point he needs to build a defense—but they certainly won't hurt in the court of public opinion.
And in 2014, that is nearly as important as anything.
Follow Brian Leigh: @BleighDAT