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More from The Q&A: Phillip Dillard

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Phillip Dillard and his Nebraska teammates face a tall task today — slowing down Colt McCoy and the Texas offense in the Big 12 championship game.

But it’s hardly the first challenge the former Jenks High School standout has faced. The linebacker has endured high-profile coaching changes and career-threatening injuries.

Jenni Carlson: I know one of the reasons Bo Pelini was hired as Nebraska’s head coach was to resurrect the defense, bring back the Blackshirts. Now, you have one of the best defenses in the country. Was there a moment you realized the Blackshirts were back?

Phillip Dillard: After going through a few games  … everyone on the team’s hitting. It was like, “This defense is back.” I don’t read into statistics. You’ve got to prove it. Paper doesn’t mean anything. You’ve got to go out there and prove it every week. It’s great being part of the defense that helped bring the Black Shirt tradition back.

JC: Does your chest puff a little when you put on that Blackshirt jersey?

PD: They don’t just give it to somebody. You earn it. We didn’t get them until we earned them. That’s when you take pride in it. That’s when you wear it with honor.

JC: When you think about this season and this team, what stands as the proudest moment?

PD: Winning that Big 12 North title. Beating Colorado and being able to say we were part of something special was great.

JC: For you personally, have you had a proudest moment, especially after the injures you endured a year ago?

PD: Just how the coaches stayed with me and believed in me. When they gave me a chance to go out there, I never looked back. It’s been full force ever since. I don’t think I ever would’ve become the player I became this year without the coaches, the players and my family.

JC: But some of you getting back on the field was you making the commitment to come back.

PD: Oh, sure. It was basically … “I’m a man, and I’ve got to take responsibility when my time comes.” When it came, I did.

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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›