Niles Paul's incident discouraging


On its own, being ticketed for being a minor in possession of alcohol and public urination isn't a big deal. I won't defend it, but there are worse offenses.

But in Nebraska receiver Niles Paul's case, two factors make it a real concern.

The most important is his prior offense. Paul was arrested just over a year ago on suspicion of driving under the influence, but eventually plead guilty to reckless driving and his first minor in possession of alcohol offense. That eventually lead to his suspension for the final week of spring.

Paul, who is 20 (even if his beard argues otherwise), spoke about last season's charge during my visit to Lincoln this spring.

"Went through some tough times, made a mistake around this time last year, and it's something that'll never happen again," Paul said in April.

Paul wasn't driving. Based on the police report, he wasn't endangering anything outside his own reputation. But in the wake of this incident, those words ring pretty hollow. I'm no Nebraska native, but I'm sure there are better things to be doing at 1:23 a.m. on a Friday night in Lincoln, Neb.

Plenty of people have faced similar charges and gone on to fine careers in athletics and life without facing even a hiccup the rest of the way. This isn't an offense that should warrant an in-season suspension, and based on coach Bo Pelini's short-winded public comments, it likely just means some extra conditioning for Paul.

But that broaches the second reason why the incident raises concerns.

Paul is no freshman walk-on just happy to be donning the famed red jersey and white helmet. He's a productive senior preparing for his fourth season as a Husker. A second alcohol-related mistake sets a dangerous precedent for the young receivers and others Paul should be shepherding. It suggests embracing his role as leader isn't the only thing on his mind, and for a team and fan base hungry to take the next step, that's a discouraging sign.

And it's also one that will cost him some credibility with the young players that will try to carry on Nebraska's success under Bo Pelini after the 2010 season.