December 14, 2018 | ° F

Knights reflect on frightening moment against Nebraska 6 months later

Photo by Michelle Klejmont |

Senior center Derrick Nelson is surrounded by teammates and coaches after colliding with Dorian Miller against Nebraska last season.

There was a minute remaining in the Rutgers football team’s contest against Nebraska at High Point Solutions Stadium last November when it happened. The score was 31-14 in favor of the visitors, leaving close to no hope remaining for the Scarlet Knights as they drove down field.

All hope left evaporated when then-sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano threw his third pick of the afternoon. Still, guard Dorian Miller wasn’t going to let the Cornhuskers run up the score.

“It was an interception, we were down, I was mad,” Miller retold reporters Tuesday, nearly six months after the game. “I’m running to tackle the guy. Derrick has the same idea.”

Center Derrick Nelson came in with a head of steam equal to Miller’s trying to take down Nate Gerry, who picked off Laviano’s pass. But when the cornerback escaped a pair of tackles, it left Miller and Nelson to collide head-to-head.

Nelson laid on the field for 15 minutes following the violent collision. As he was carried off the field at High Point to be transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, he raised his right arm to show the crowd he had control of his extremities.

“At first, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really on a stretcher. I can’t believe this,” Nelson said before revealing he was told he had a minor strain in his neck at the hospital. “I’m really thankful for the support the Rutgers football team and the fans gave me, as well as the Nebraska fans.”

While Nelson was being transported to the hospital, Miller was on the sideline going through symptoms of his first concussion.

Combine that with seeing a teammate laying flat on the field as a result of a hit he committed, and it made for a unique feeling of fear and emotion.

“I was like, ‘What the hell, what’s going on right now?’” Miller said of his thoughts on the sideline. “Then I’m upset, I’m emotional because (Nelson) didn’t get up, so that was definitely, in the moment, a very emotional, very scary experience, but he bounced back so quick, the emotions never settled in too deep where people were that upset, but there were tears falling for sure.”

The situation certainly wasn’t a positive one, but there were good things to come out of the incident.

Miller and Nelson grew closer as they both were unable to participate in practice due to their respective injuries, watching the Knights following contest against Army together at Miller’s house.

“It was an odd bonding experience not being able to play or go to meetings or anything like that, so we were literally together, just going through it with each other,” Miller said. “Obviously, we had to watch the Army game at home, so that was rough, but we were together, so it definitely brought us close. We were close before that, but that’s my guy.”

The strengthened bond will help the transition to a new offense this spring just a bit easier.

Returning to activity after the incident during winter workouts, there was some anxiety between the two. But once the music in the weight room started blaring and the blood started flowing, it was business as usual.

“Honestly, just going through workouts and going through physical activity there just kind of brought that nervousness out,” Miller said. “The first workout was probably more nerve wracking for me, but after the first couple of workouts, I was like, ‘Alright.’”

Nelson echoes the sentiment of his close friend. After shaking off the rust and anxiety in the winter, the senior center is already handing out compliments to his unit.

“It’s just a little bit of a rush, but I’m shaking it off. I shook it off day day, but I think we’re doing pretty well,” he said. “I have to give thanks to my offensive line. I mean, all of them, they’re all doing a great job.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Brian Fonseca

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