Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

'Night at the Lied' Rewarding For Kitrell

By Brian Rosenthal

Here’s how an average day unfolded for Nebraska running back Bo Kitrell, a senior walk-on from Ashland, during the fall semester.

For starters, Kitrell is an early riser. Like, 4:45 a.m. type of early. Then he’d read from his Bible, eat a little breakfast and sneak in some studying before football meetings at 6:30 or 7, depending on the day of the week.

After meetings, Kitrell would lift, and then have practice for the remainder of the morning. He’d get lunch, and between noon and 4:30 p.m., he’d be in class. Then more football meetings, dinner, and a bigger study time until about 9 p.m.

“Then,” Kitrell said, “I’d try to get some sleep."

And he’d wake up at 4:45 a.m. and do it all again.

“It wasn’t as hard as it sounds. I liked it, honestly,” Kitrell said. “I like being regimented, I like having schedules.”

It’s hard to argue with his strategy. Kitrell, who will graduate in May with a degree in civil engineering, maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.916 during his five years at Nebraska.

For that, Kitrell was among nine Nebraska student-athletes to receive an Outstanding Scholar Award during A Night at the Lied ceremonies Sunday night at the Lied Center in Lincoln. The award is presented to student-athletes in their final season of eligibility or graduating next month, while carrying a 3.90 or better GPA.

Other men’s honorees were Anton Stephenson and fellow men’s gymnast Joshua Everitt, Rok Krizaj (tennis) and Jordan Shearer (wrestling). The women’s recipients were Marina Cozac (tennis), Lindsay Hargreaves (soccer), Lindsay Helferich (swimming and diving) and Rachel Yager (rifle).

Katie Jewell, Associate Director of Academic Programs, said Kitrell is an excellent example of a talented, hard-working student-athlete.

“In any major, having a 3.9 cumulative GPA as a student-athlete is amazing,” Jewell said. “When you add on a 3.9 with the rigor of civil engineering? It adds a whole other dynamic. To have those kinds of grades in engineering classes require somebody who's both very gifted academically and also a very hard worker.”

How did Kitrell do it?

“A lot of help from other people, to be honest,” he said, naming his supportive mother, Nebraska’s academic support staff and his football coaches for prioritizing school.

Yes, Kitrell would sacrifice nights when he knew his friends were out having fun. But it’s not like he didn’t enjoy his routine.

“I learned to really enjoy the moment,” Kitrell said. “I really enjoyed practicing, I really enjoyed meetings. I really enjoyed studying and learning.

“Something I learned throughout college is that it’s not always about the mountain top, and it’s not always about the high points and the low points. Sometime what’s in between can be just as enjoyable.”

Kitrell said his faith helped him immensely and made life “a lot less weighted.” That became especially true during a football career in which Kitrell never did play in a game and ended with him breaking his leg in a freak accident in practice.

“I was running the football, and somebody had my leg pinned to the ground in a pile,” he said. “I went one way. My leg went the other.”

Kitrell broke his fibula, and he knew he couldn’t play football again.

“That was a tough pill to swallow,” he said, “but I feel like if I would’ve had my identity in football, it would’ve left me completely broken and completely down.”

Without football this semester, his daily routine has changed. He had so much free time that he took a job helping manage his father’s fitness center in Ashland, just to fill some unusual voids.

“And I get to lift a lot when I’m on the job,” Kitrell said. “Which is nice, because it’s harder to find motivation to lift nowadays.”

Jewell ‘An Inspiration’

Among many people he thanked on Nebraska’s academic support staff, Kitrell (above, far left) gave special recognition to Jewell.

“She is one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met,” Kitrell said of Jewel, who’s been with Nebraska since 2001. “She’s my mom away from mom. Whenever I was stressing about a test or stressing about my grade point average going down, potentially, she really put things into perspective and really taught me a lot of things.”

Kitrell also marveled at Jewell and her ability and willingness to continue helping students through her battle with cancer over the past year.

“So much inspiration for how she fought that and how she’s still fighting,’ Kitrell said. “She’s just an inspiration for us all. She went to work when she could’ve easily taken a bunch of time off and not had the desire to work.

“But she really cares about the student athlete, and she’s so unselfish, always asking us questions.”

Jewell, initially diagnosed in January 2018, said she is doing well.

“I am as good as things could be,” she said. “They’ll never say I’m in remission or cancer-free or any of those things, but everything is stable. I’m in way better shape than I was a year ago, and I’m super thankful for that."

She’s also grateful to see student-athletes like Kitrell reach their goals.

“Seeing students be successful at everything they’re doing, and watching them grow and develop all the time they’re here,” Jewell said, “is one of the reasons I’m in the position that I am.”

Renaming Award For Foltz ‘Fitting’

For years, Nebraska annually presented a Hero Leadership Award to student-athletes who exhibit strong leadership qualities, commitment to service and ability to encourage/empower peers.

When Nebraska football player and Nebraska native Sam Foltz died in a car accident in 2016, the award was renamed the Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award, and Kitrell couldn’t think of a more fitting move.

“That award is something that is rooted in unselfishness and rooted in love for the people of Nebraska,” Kitrell said. “That’s something that Sam exuded in his everyday life.”

The award is now presented every year to 27 student-athletes across all sports. Avery Anderson, Ryan Schommer and Ben Stille were football players to receive the honor Sunday.

Kitrell remembers earning a Hero Leadership Award in 2016, along with Foltz.

“We both won the award, and I remember looking up at the guy, like, ‘Wow, I’m on the same stage as Sam Foltz,’ ” Kitrell said. “He’s someone who epitomized what it meant to be a Husker, and somebody I really, really looked up to, in terms of service, in terms of work ethic … just everything. He did everything the right way.

“To have an award named after him is so fitting, and if you win that award, it’s such a great honor – one of the greatest honors at the awards banquet.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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