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Actions, not words.

That’s the motto of a handful of military units throughout the world. My personal connection is through Combat Logistics Battalion 3, the U.S. Marine Corps unit at Kaneohe Bay, on the North Shore of Oahu, where my son was based for several years.

For long-suffering Nebraska football fans who are hopeful at the reintroduction of familiar Hawaiian blood into their program, it’s been an increasingly urgent theme ever since Scott Frost proclaimed during Big Ten Media Days in 2018 that “they’d better get us now,” but consistently failed to back up those lofty words. By the midpoint of the underachieving Frost era, the motto for Husker Nation became, “We’ll believe it when we see it on the field.”

To an offense in dire need of good news, the expectation of improvement at quarterback seems reasonable, but I think the single best offensive indicator (besides a positive turnover margin) would be the resurgence of the Cornhusker tight end. It’s reasonable to expect good things from the room personally supervised by offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, and specifically, it’s the right time to expect significant improvement from Thomas Fidone II. I’m thinking something beyond what Austin Allen and Kyler Reed accomplished, something beyond Tracey Wistrom, moving into 2008 Mike McNeill territory, which is not unrealistic when you consider that Satterfield will ratchet up the number of pass plays this fall.

If you see Fidone making three catches a game, establishing himself as a third-down threat and getting into the end zone regularly, you’ll know that better times are right around the corner.

By no means is Fidone the only Husker with something to prove this fall, but he’s the skill player with the highest ceiling and the most experience in Satterfield’s offense. He’s the most likely to break out with a big season. It’s unlikely Nebraska will have a good year on offense if Fidone is not front and center, helping lead the charge.

It’s time for the Council Bluffs native to realize his considerable potential and take the Big Ten by storm.

Why so much focus on Fidone? Well, he’s openly spoken about being an All-America contender. About a year ago, Fidone said he should be considered an upper-echelon player.

“I think I can be the (John) Mackey Award winner,” Fidone said. “I think I can be the best tight end in all of college football.”

That’s bold talk for a highly touted high school star who had never caught a pass in a college game when he made that statement. It’s great that Fidone is confident about his abilities. The next step is to back up those words on the field of play. He got off to a modest start last year. A young and unproven Husker quarterback will need more than that. He’ll need a reliable go-to option. I think transfer portal acquisitions Jahmal Banks and Isaiah Neyor will be important targets, but a tight end-heavy play action passing game seems like the best scenario, much better than a steady diet of wide receiver screens. A high-performing Fidone would be a godsend to the Nebraska running game, where ultimately, the success of the Nebraska offense rests.

In fairness to Fidone, his first two years in the program were hijacked by knee injuries. He proved last fall, in his redshirt sophomore season, that he’s fully recovered and grounded as a team-first blocker and hard worker. Now it’s time to take flight. If Fidone is serious about becoming a Mackey contender, he’ll let his playing speak for itself, starting Week 1. No slow start for Fidone. Gotta have it right away.

He can start with a 50 percent increase in production from last season, which was 25 catches, 260 yards and four receiving touchdowns. That would speak volumes. Otherwise, let’s save the chatter for after the season, after Fidone has been named (at least) second-team All-Big Ten at tight end, setting himself up for major awards as a senior.

Then, there’ll be bigger things to talk about come this time next year.

Thomas Fidone touchdown 2023 Nebraska vs. Louisiana Tech football 4Q USATSI_21489763
Thomas Fidone 1 2023 Nebraska football vs Northern Illinois
Thomas Fidone TD 4Q 2023 Nebraska football vs Louisiana Tech
Thomas Fidone tight end USATSI_21540141 Nebraska football vs Michigan 2023-09-30
Thomas Fidone  touchdown 2Q 2023 Nebraska vs Northern Illinois football
Thomas Fidone is tackled after making a catch for 17 yards and a first down during the fourth quarter against Michigan in 2023.