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Nebraska players Brown, Johnson home for Fiesta Bowl

By Doug Alden
Associated Press

Posted: Dec. 30, 1999

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Fan support won't be a problem Sunday for Nebraska linebacker Eric Johnson and defensive back Mike Brown, both natives of the Phoenix area.

Both players have rounded up tickets for friends and family to attend the Cornhuskers' Fiesta Bowl appearance against Tennessee.

"It feels wonderful. Every day we drive to practice, we pass my old high school and it brings back some great memories," Brown said. "I want to have another great memory in Sun Devil Stadium in winning this game."

Brown closed out his high school career by helping lead Scottsdale-Saguaro High School to the Arizona Class 4A state title in Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium. A couple of months later, Nebraska won its second straight national title, beating Florida 62-24 on the same field.


Johnson has run into Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin and running back Jamal Lewis before, and it wasn't in the Huskers 42-17 Orange Bowl win over Tennessee two years ago.

It was about four years ago on University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

"I was their host on their recruiting trip," said Johnson, a senior who will play his final college game Sunday. "They're some good players. They're good people. Now, watching them play, they're very successful."

Martin, a 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound senior, earned All-SEC honors after passing for 2,317 yards and 12 touchdowns and was also third in rushing for the Volunteers with 317 yards.

Lewis, a junior from Atlanta, leads the Vols in rushing this season with 851 yards.

"You've got to look at it like this and be happy with what you have," Johnson said. "That was the choice that they chose and I'm happy for them."


The last time Tennessee faced Nebraska, starting quarterback Peyton Manning was sidelined the week before the game with a knee injury.

Now it's Tee Martin who is on the shelf. Martin, Manning's backup in the Orange Bowl two years ago, caught the flu over the holidays while at home in Mobile, Ala., and is slowly regaining his strength.

"Maybe there's just something about Nebraska that makes us sick. I don't know," Martin joked.

Martin returned to practice Tuesday and said he completed 6-of-7 passes.

"I'll be all right. My little virus is not as serious as Peyton's knee."


Tennessee beat top-ranked Florida State 23-16 in last year's Fiesta Bowl to win the national title.

The Seminoles had the nation's top-ranked defense.

Nebraska is No. 4 nationally in total defense, allowing 252.3 yards per game, and is better than Florida State, Martin said.

"Florida State is known for speed, but we pretty much matched up with them speed and strength wise," Martin said. "Nebraska has more guys than Florida State did with the strength and speed. And they play together."

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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