He was in his 15th minute of answering questions from reporters. Because this is Nebraska. And in Nebraska, a sophomore center occasionally answers questions for that length of time.
Then the man with the same name walked by. His uncle. His head coach. The latter having more significance than the former this time of year.
The younger Mark Pelini didn't miss a beat as he answered the next question.
“At first, I initially came out here thinking people are going to think I’m here because of that,” he said of his uncle, better known as Bo. “But you just can’t worry about it.”
The offensive lineman’s only worry right now is being prepared for Badgers.
After coming in for injured Justin Jackson in the first half against Iowa, it’s quite possible two Pelinis might be at the center of things during Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game.
Mark Pelini, who has appeared in four games this year, could be called on to start against Wisconsin.
But that shouldn’t be taken to the bank just yet. The Huskers also have the option of playing junior Cole Pensick, who has been very valuable this season rotating at right guard.
Assistant offensive line coach John Garrison said Pensick and Pelini took equal snaps at center during Monday’s practice, which is not unusual.
“We felt comfortable putting Mark in there and being able to handle the situation at Iowa,” Garrison said. “We’ll see what happens this week and evaluate it. … It could vary from Iowa to Wisconsin. It might not.”
Whether he gets the call or not this week, coaches say the kid held his own against the Hawkeyes.
“With Mark, I know he’s always going to be in the right place, he’s always going to be able to handle the shotgun snaps,” Garrison said. “It was a cold, windy day and that was a situation where I wanted a sure-handed guy in there.”
Smart guy, too.
From familiar Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, Mark Pelini had opportunities to go to West Point or Ivy League schools such as Columbia, where his dad (Bo’s older brother, Vince) was a football standout.
When considering his college options, Mark sent a tape to his uncle in Nebraska. The idea was that Bo could send it to some people he knew at smaller schools.
“Just from watching the tape, he said, ‘You should probably give us a look, be a walk on here,’” Mark said.
It wasn’t an easy decision. But Mark arrived to the same conclusion as all those other Husker walk-ons.
“When it came down to it, I just wanted to play big-time football and see what I can do,” he said.
Bo: “I was a little bit surprised actually that he made the choice to come here. Glad he did.”
But the younger Pelini didn’t just come to put on a Husker helmet and say he did. He came to make an impact.
The 6-foot, 285-pound center made his push during the offseason, putting himself at least in the conversation for the center job with Jackson and Pensick.
And when his number was called against Iowa, there was no time to ponder the situation.
Nebraska was in the middle of a drive. He met the rest of the team on the field.
“Everybody was just like, ‘Let’s go,’” he said.
There are always things you can do better, but Mark Pelini felt there wasn’t much that surprised him during the game.
“Our coaches do an incredible job of preparing us for what’s going to happen in the game,” he said. “So, almost every look you see in the game we’ve already watched on film or we’ve ran it in practice.”
Junior offensive tackle Brent Qvale said Pelini is one of the most intelligent linemen in the room.
So while there was disappointment in losing Jackson, a senior and a leader, Qvale felt there was also a good level of trust that Pelini could handle the job.
“We knew when he came in that he would know exactly what he was doing and make the right calls and all that,” Qvale said. “He came in and played his butt off, and he’s going to get another chance now to do it again.”