Halloween 2009. Waco, Texas.
Jared Crick's effort that day stood out in sharp relief—a bold work of art with powerful strokes of scarlet and cream against an otherwise unremarkable canvas.
The day was supposed to be special because it would be Cody Green's first start at quarterback. However, Crick took center stage in a Nebraska victory over Baylor that was too close for comfort.
By game's end, his stat line read: 13 tackles, seven tackles for loss and five sacks.
The 13 tackles were a personal record. The five sacks were a school record.
It remains the second-most dominant individual defensive effort personally witnessed by this author, second only to attending the 2009 Big 12 Championship and watching Ndamukong Suh wreak havoc upon Colt McCoy and the Longhorns.
The fact that Crick was only a sophomore made his performance all the more impressive.
A native Nebraskan from the tiny town of Cozad, Crick was a multi-sport athlete in high school who also led his basketball team in scoring and rebounding. In track and field, he finished second in the state in the shot put.
First courted by Kansas to play football, he almost became a Jayhawk. However, Nebraska eventually offered him a scholarship which Crick accepted—partly because he would be closer to home, partly because he had always wanted to be a Cornhusker.
In 2007, Crick entered the Nebraska program and, at 250 lbs., was slated to play defensive end. After red-shirting his freshman year, he was moved to defensive tackle.
Crick put on 30 lbs. of solid muscle in the off-season, thanks to the Huskers' strength and conditioning program, but didn't sacrifice his speed or quickness.
After another season in which he didn't receive much playing time, Crick teamed up with Suh his sophomore season. Crick was a beneficiary of the attention paid to his linemate and recorded nine-and-a-half sacks.
As a junior, with Suh gone, he equaled that total.
After two seasons as an all-Big 12 first-teamer and a 2010 All-America selection, Crick debated an early entrance into the NFL, but decided against it after being counseled by his parents and Ndamukong Suh, who had faced a similar dilemma after his junior season.
This season was to be Crick's chance to cement his legacy; he started the year ten-and-a-half sacks away from the school's career record. Given the Blackshirts' reputation and his position as an interior lineman it would have been remarkable had he accomplished the feat.
Instead, Crick missed the Wyoming game due to injury and had to leave the Ohio State game in the fourth quarter. All season, he didn't seem himself, totaling only 22 tackles (three for loss) and a lone sack.
After so many preseason honors and distinctions too numerous to list here, his career as a Husker was suddenly over. The cause—a torn pectoral muscle. Prior to that he had started 33 of the Huskers' past 34 games.
Now, Crick will finish his career with 20 sacks (eighth on the Huskers' career list) and 35 tackles for loss.
As he heals and awaits next year's NFL draft, Crick who finished his history degree in August, will pull for his brothers with whom he fought in the trenches, but if his words from a preseason USA Today article are any indication, his team-first attitude won't permit him to worry too much about his place in Nebraska football history.
"Personal notoriety—it's out the window," Crick said. "It'd be nice to be the (sack) leader so when I come back 10 years, 20 years from now I can see my name. But that's the least of my concerns."
Granted those were the words of a player with great expectations going into his senior season and not those of a player who won't be able to storm the field on Senior Day in his red and white armor—a gladiator who can no longer do battle at this level.
However, after watching this hard-nosed, humble young man since his sophomore season, and how he responded after Suh's departure, it's a safe bet that he'll add more masterpieces to his unfinished football legacy at the next level.