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Last week, Caleb Kolb, a wrestler and communications study major, landed the perfect job for someone who could have gone to a number of excellent schools but selected Nebraska and fell in love with the place so much, he traded in his graduation cap and gown for the honor to be a University of Nebraska-Lincoln admissions counselor.
In other words, he will try to recruit new students to a growing Big Ten Conference institution that wants more students just like Caleb Kolb…driven, engaged, and willing to share openly why there’s no place like Nebraska.
“Nebraska’s been a great fit for me, and if I could do it over, I’d come to Nebraska again,” Kolb told me last Saturday after his parents and older brother watched him get his diploma at Pinnacle Bank Arena and then tour Memorial Stadium’s Student Life Complex following a luncheon reception for 55 Huskers who participated in commencement.
Manning-Led Program Builds Instant Family
“I fell in love with this place. That’s why it’s my home now,” Kolb said of Lincoln. “It was an easy transition for me from the minute I got here. I love Coach Manning, our program and the instant family we all became together. Our team is built on hard work and loyalty.”
Caleb told his father, Jon Kolb, a 13-year player with the Pittsburgh Steelers and owner of four Super Bowl rings, that he was so close to his wrestling teammates at Nebraska, he would “take a bullet for any one of them.” Caleb told me that if he ever ran out of gas anywhere, he could call any teammate and every one would help out.
No wonder Kolb had a one-word answer when I asked what he liked most about the school that is now his alma mater. “Camaraderie,” he said without hesitation. “You can meet people anywhere, and you can talk to people anywhere but friendship doesn’t happen everywhere like it happens here. Nebraska has a certain mindset that’s hard to describe but great to see every day. It’s a positive place. People are the best part of the culture. They’re hard-working, genuine, caring. I made the right choice.”
A Story Duplicating His Own is a Winner
After hearing how Kolb landed in Lincoln from Grove City, Pa., I believe he’s fully prepared to help potential college students from across the country both to consider UNL and then influence a positive decision.
Kolb had taken four of his five paid recruiting visits to Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri. He was saving his fifth and last NCAA-allowed visit to fly to Oklahoma State, his father’s alma mater. Caleb also had taken unofficial visits to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and to the University of Virginia.
But a funny thing happened on Caleb Kolb’s way to somewhere else – Nebraska Wrestling Coach Mark Manning visited the Kolb family in Pennsylvania. The chemistry was immediate between coach and son and coach and father. Jon Kolb, in fact, told his son that he already knew Stillwater well because he had been there often. The elder Kolb also thought his son should visit Lincoln “because Coach Manning came all the way to Pennsylvania to see him.”
One Visit Took Nebraska from Last to First
Caleb’s decision came down to the school for which he was saving his last visit and the school which entered the game last but finished first. “Since Caleb chose Nebraska, I haven’t put on my Oklahoma State jacket for the last five years,” Jon Kolb quipped. “Now that he’s graduated, I can wear my jacket again because that’s the place that made me into what I am.”
When Jon Kolb sees a polished, poised UNL recruiter excel across the board, he knows Caleb chose the right place for him. At Nebraska, Caleb became an NCAA Championships qualifier, a member of the first-ever Tom Osborne Citizenship Team, a Nebraska Student-Athlete Hero Leadership Award winner and the recipient of three scholar-athlete awards. His work ethic also earned Caleb the 2009-10 Nebraska Redshirt of the Year Award.
The admission counseling job that Kolb originally pursued at UNL was based in Minneapolis. “When they came back to me and asked if I would mind living in Lincoln and working here, I couldn’t believe it,” Kolb said. “That was a big day for me. I not only want to live here, I want to stay here. Nebraska is a very special place.”
Graduate Prediction: Husker Future Bright
I have to ask Caleb, who gets a Senior Night hug from his mom in the photo above, one more question: Is Nebraska special enough to continue to grow its national stature in wrestling? “Absolutely,” he said. “I helped recruit wrestlers here over the last four years. People who come here love it, just like Jordan Burroughs, who’s probably the best wrestler in the world. The people coming next year are going to influence our recruiting. James Green, Robert Kokesh and Jake Sueflohn are all going to be very successful seniors. The way they perform is going to be part of our recruiting. Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the greatest places in the world to live and work. Ask Jordan Burroughs. That’s why he moved here.”
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