LINCOLN — Husker fan Jack Basye had a classic Blackshirts sign for Fan Day, and he wanted each end of the two bones sticking out of the helmet signed by a different defensive coach.
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was No. 2 on Basye’s list. Diaco took care to wipe a smudge off the spot where Basye wanted him to sign. The “R,” for Robert, was tucked inside the “D” of “Diaco.”
The highest-paid assistant in Husker football history was one of the top attractions at Saturday night’s Fan Day, a two-hour autograph-and-picture event that gave fans an early glimpse at the team that enters training camp Sunday.
The line for the linebackers — where Diaco was stationed — was one of the longest of the night, snaking into the north tunnel of Memorial Stadium. The quarterbacks line, featuring starter Tanner Lee, was much shorter, though with three quarterbacks to sign autographs, it figured to go quickly.
Among the linebackers — one of NU’s strongest position groups — Diaco sat at the end of the line, dressed in a black pullover. Basye was interested to get Diaco’s autograph and equally interested in what Diaco’s defense may look like this fall.
“We’ve got some guys who can get the job done, but he’s got to be real careful about how he picks them,” said Basye, from Omaha. “We’re counting on him to make those decisions.”
Basye said he liked Diaco’s work as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.
“He did good at Connecticut, too,” Basye said of Diaco’s three-year stint as coach of the Huskies. “He had something going. He’s got the players here. Those linebackers over there? We’ve got about eight of ’em who can play.”
Coach Mike Riley, signing autographs and taking pictures with Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst for the second straight year, had the longest line that at one point stretched 100 yards. The Husker freshmen, sitting in the West Stadium bleachers, were also popular, especially the final two of the bunch, defensive linemen Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas.
“We’re glad you’re here!” a fan yelled as they signed autographs.
Defensive back Joshua Kalu doesn’t sign autographs. Instead he takes pictures with fans, and this year enlisted safeties Aaron Williams and Antonio Reed to take photos with him. Kalu typically posed with kids, stunned to get so close to the Husker players.
Where Kalu plays — corner or safety — will be one of the early camp questions Diaco has to answer in the wake of an injury to top cornerback Chris Jones. Diaco, whom Nebraska secured in the offseason over Arkansas, will be paid $825,000 this year to make that decision and others.
Basye said he’ll wait and see what happens.
“Those guys gotta believe in him, and he’s got to know what the hell he’s doing,” Basye said. “That all makes it work.”