"He means everything to our defense," safety Justin Blatchford said. "He has to know what he has to do, but he has to know what everyone else has to do. He's really a leader and shows just great passion to the game and puts in so much time in the film room and out on the field."
Pelini said, "I think he has played well all year, he really has. I think that we have a lot of contributors at the linebacker position. Will has been the center of it."
For that, Pelini can thank Kathy Compton, Will's mom.
Compton started considering other options after Callahan was fired. He took a shine to Illinois because the Illini were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance, and Missouri had just gone to the Big 12 championship game for the first time. Notre Dame had tradition.
"I remember telling my mom that I wasn't coming here that year and she started crying," Compton said. "She really liked the staff, coach Bo and everybody here and she thought I was making a mistake."
As if his mom's efforts to persuade him weren't enough, four Nebraska assistants visited Compton to make a last-ditch effort to keep him.
"We had a great night and once they walked out I just said I didn't know what I was thinking in the first place and I said that Nebraska is where I definitely want to go," he said.
Compton received his degree in business administration last December, and he said he'll treasure memories of the fans, the Tunnel Walk, Pelini's pregame speeches and the good times with his teammates.
Playing for a Big Ten title would be something else he could take with him if the Huskers can lock up a trip to Indianapolis.
"We're in a position to do a few different things that haven't been done here in quite a while," he said. "We're all aware of that, but we have to stay locked in."