Since we're still talking football in the prime of hoops season, it seems only fitting to use a quote from a legendary basketball player that can be applied to and embraced by Nebraska's 2012 walk-on class. "A winner," Larry Bird once said, "is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and then uses his skills to accomplish his goals."
That, in a nutshell, was Jeff Jamrog's big-picture view when he sat down with the N-Sider to discuss what NU's coaching staff describes as NU's best walk-on class in at least five years. "This class is loaded with kids who love to compete," Jamrog said.
"As a group, they turned down a lot of scholarship money just so they could come to Nebraska and prove they're winners," Jamrog said, adding: "Once you watch this group on film (hit link at the top of this column), you see how much talent they have. When you add in work ethic to their talent and winning attitude, we see a lot of these guys finding a way to take some significant snaps in our program. They have speed. They have size, and they have unlimited potential to accomplish their goals."
Jamrog is more than fascinated with the successful harvest of this walk-on class. He sees a strong willingness to compete and a group that didn't want to turn their backs on an opportunity of a lifetime.
Huskers Have Phenomenal Batting Average
"We had a list of 48 guys we thought were legitimate prospects to walk on," Jamrog said. "We went through a lot of film analysis and discussion to trim that list to 21, and that number became our A-List. We thought we'd be lucky to get 10 of those guys to walk on, but we ended up getting 18 of the 21 with one who we're still waiting on. Our batting average was phenomenal. We never even went to our B-List. This is a great class. From top to bottom, it's the most impressive class we've had, and Coach (Bo) Pelini and Coach (Barney) Cotton agree with that."
Jamrog looks at scholarships turned down from North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, plus Northwest Missouri, UNK, Wayne State and other solid programs. He knows the sacrifices this class made to turn their dreams into reality.
"These kids have won in high school, and they want to win at their home state university," Jamrog said, pointing to three walk-ons from state Class A runner-up Omaha Burke, and two each from 9-2 Grand Island and state Class B runner-up Gretna. That's seven kids from three schools, and we're not even counting single players from state championship teams and other highly successful teams.
Fullback Carson Collins, linebacker Mitch McCann and running back Jordan Nelson are the three players from Omaha Burke. Athlete Sam Foltz and quarterback Ryker Fyfe are from Grand Island, and defensive end/tight Jared Blum and fullback Andy Janovich are from Gretna. Lincoln Southeast tight end Trey Foster, and Elkhorn running back Graham Nabity both played on state championship teams.
Aurora offensive lineman Garret Johns and Wahoo Neumann's Cole Chvatal are multi-talented athletes who match the winning mindset. Jamrog, Nebraska's assistant athletic director for football, is equally enthused about Plattsmouth defensive end/tight end Ross Dzuris, Oakland-Craig linebacker Taylor Hoffman, Kearney placekicker Spencer Lindsay, Lincoln Southwest wide receiver Brandon Reilly, Ralston linebacker Brad Simpson and Papillion-LaVista offensive lineman Dylan Utter.
Robbie Painter: Proverbial Diamond in the Rough
Nebraska has one out-of-state member in its 2012 walk-on class - Robbie Painter, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound offensive lineman from Grandview High School in Centennial, Colo. Painter starred on back-to-back state semifinal teams, including one that finished 11-2 his senior year. Painter had solid opportunities to go elsewhere. UNLV recruited him. So did Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington, which beat Delaware for the 2011 FCS national football championship.
The Huskers, though, had an inside influence in Painter's collegiate choice. "He grew up a Nebraska fan," Jamrog said. "His grandparents live in Lincoln, and his sister already goes to school here." Did we mention Painter also thought about going to Stanford, Harvard or Yale? In other words, this young man's smart enough to follow Larry Bird's advice. Watch the film and see how adept a 6-6, 270-pounder can be when he pulls and knocks people down.
The best news? This past season, Painter watched Nebraska walk-on lineman Spencer Long go from obscurity to second-team All-Big Ten Conference honors. No wonder Painter chose a program known for inspiring players to work their tails off, so they can convert their talents into skills and then use those skills to acccomplish every achieveable goal imagineable, athletically, academically and for life.
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