Ryan Held has rolled up a lot of travel mileage in the short time he’s been at the University of Nebraska.
“There’s been a lot of travel. I’ve been eating too much food. I’ve got to get back to the workout grind,” the former Northeastern Oklahoma A&M head coach quipped in a recent phone interview.
Held, called by some as one of the best recruiters in the country, left NEO to join Scott Frost’s staff at Central Florida, then was one of the first hires when Frost moved to Nebraska in December.
“It’s a blessing. The stars aligned pretty good because I’ve been happy everywhere, but this one takes the cake,” Held said. “When you’ve been a fan then get to go to work here, it’s pretty special. Pretty special.”
Held compiled a 9-11 record in two seasons at NEO, going 5-6 in 2014 and 4-5 in 2015.
During his stint in Miami, the Golden Norsemen produced 36 all-Southwest Junior College Football Conference players, including six first-teamers.
Held was a teammate of Frost at Nebraska during the 1995 and 1996 seasons. Following his playing career, Held was an undergraduate assistant coach for the Huskers in 1997, working with the running backs.
That season, Frost led Nebraska to a 13-0 record and a national title as the Cornhuskers’ starting quarterback.
Held was part of a Frost-led Central Florida turnaround that was the nation’s most improved team in 2016, going 5-6.
The Knights had been winless in 2015, when Frost came on board.
They posted the first perfect season in UCF and American Athletic Conference history and was the only unbeaten team in the country in 2017.
The school declared itself the national champion after beating Auburn 34-27 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Many thought the Knights belonged in the four-team College Football Playoff, but Power Five conference members Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State and Alabama locked up the spots.
“The football gods were looking down on us,” Held said. “A lot of good things happened to us. There were a lot of good plays and the kids played well, worked hard — we played good football.
“We controlled what we could control and took care of business. It was fun. We learned a lot.”
The Cornhuskers, once a huge football rival of the University of Oklahoma as a member of the Big Eight and Big 12, has been in the Big Ten Conference since 2011.
Held is the second former Golden Norse head coach to be at a Big Ten school: Clay Patterson is starting his first season at Minnesota as tight ends coach.
The two will go up each other on Oct. 20 when the Gophers and Cornhuskers square off in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Held succeeded Sherard Poteete (now head coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas), who was then followed up by Patterson.
Held was head coach at Highland (Kansas) Community College for two seasons prior to coming to NEO.
His first head-coaching job came at NAIA Peru State (Nebraska) College where he was the youngest head coach in the country (26) then was named head coach at Oklahoma Panhandle State University the following season.
He then moved on to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. Within two years, Held led his team to the Lone Star Conference North Division title in 2007.
He was the North Division Coach of the Year in his first season (2006).
Held was offensive coordinator at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, from 2007 through 2011.
“I walk into this office every day and think I am very fortunate to be the running backs coach here,” Held said. “There have been a lot of great running backs who have come through Nebraska, so I take a lot of pride in being the position coach at that position.
“We have to work hard every day to get this position back to what people expect and what we expect.”
Cornhusker fans are a passionate lot: more than 87,000 attended the annual spring game.
“They are behind us, but they expect winning,” Held said. “They expect championships. They expect a product we can put on the fields where we have a chance to win every game.”
Held said he still wants to be a head coach again —when the time is right.
“I am definitely very happy here and it would have to be a really good situation for me to leave if it’s by choice,” Held said. “I am learning every day at the Division I level now, things you need to know.
"I make mental notes every day so if I am blessed to get that chance again, then I will do it.”