For the first time in the six-year history of the franchise, the season did not include Xzavie Jackson.
"It's an overwhelming feeling to start with," Jackson said before he helped the Nebraska Danger rally past the Titans in overtime, 52-46, in front of 2,192 fans at the U.S. Cellular Center. "It feels weird to be back here on the other sideline, but at the same time I love what I do."
No player in Indoor Football League history has sacked the quarterback more than the 32-year-old Jackson, with 50 1/2 of his 77 sacks coming during five memorable years manning the defensive line for Cedar Rapids. Jackson had the opportunity to return for a sixth season but ultimately elected for a change of scenery that included a reunion with former University of Missouri teammate Pig Brown.
"We just couldn't work anything out that got me to stay," Jackson said. "God told me to go ahead and go to Nebraska and that's what I did."
Jackson, who twice led the IFL in sacks, has 3 1/2 in 14 games with the Danger (8-6). Once the season ends, he'll go through his normal process of rest and evaluation before deciding to play in 2018 or start an inevitable coaching career. In the meantime, he continues to tutor younger teammates and recommends the same success path for a rookie-laden Cedar Rapids team struggling through a season under first-year coach Marvin McNutt.
"Just listen to your coaches and the veterans," Jackson said. "They're not veterans for no reason. … If you listen to them, they're going to help you out, especially when you have a young coach that has never done this before. They're going to put you in the right position to try and get you a win."
In a game that featured 12 lead changes, Cedar Rapids quarterback Brion Carnes threw for 146 yards and five touchdowns, but an interception by former Cedar Rapids defensive back Robert Brown set up the winning Nebraska drive in overtime.
A one-yard TD from Carnes to receiver Tre Parmalee with a minute left in the game had Cedar Rapids on the verge of its first home victory, but Nebraska tied the game at 46-46 with a 57-yard field goal by kicker Josh Gable on the final play of regulation.
Nebraska quarterback Drew Powell threw for 146 yards, ran for 102 and accounted for five total TDs, including the 1-yard game winner.
Former University of Iowa receiver Damond Powell collected six receptions for 101 yards and three scores for Cedar Rapids (1-14), which closes the season June 11 at Arizona.