Saturday marked the first official practice of spring football, but it also served as Nebraska’s junior day as eight local high school players were on campus to tour the facilities, hear from the coaches and more.
Among the juniors on campus were York defensive tackle Masry Mapieu, Omaha North running back Milton Sargbah, Elkhorn South running back Moses Bryant, Omaha Creighton Prep tight end Grant Matthies, Lincoln Southwest tight end Cameron Pieper, Omaha Skutt linebacker Jake Archer, Millard West running back Brody Belt, Kearney Catholic quarterback Matt Masker, Cambridge athlete Caden Houghtelling and Seward athlete Connor Ruth.
Matthias is one of the best tight ends in the class, and Hail Varsity caught up with him to get a rundown on how the Junior Day went. Matthias described what the day entailed for the athletes who made it to campus.
“We got there, we took our height and weight and that kind of stuff,” Matthies said. “Then we went up into the skybox and then Coach [Mike Riley] talked to us. We went and toured all the facilities with all the sports science stuff they had — training room, weight room and all the cool stuff that they have. We went out to watch practice and then ate lunch. We had that little photo shoot thing and then talked to the position coaches, went down to their offices.”
For Matthies, the best parts of the day were seeing the Huskers out on the practice field and meeting tight ends coach Tavita Thompson.
“The highlight was either watching practice or going to talk to Coach Thompson and having him talk about his philosophy, talking about how he coaches and the great relationship he has with his players,” Matthies said.
Matthias has also taken unofficial visits to Iowa State and South Dakota State, but he said Nebraska is unlike anywhere else.
“They’re just a step above everybody,” Matthies said. “They just have more technology, more things to offer than all the other colleges do I’d say.”
The day was labeled as “Junior Day,” but a more accurate title is “Underclassman Day” as a handful of the top sophomores in the state also took part including Omaha North running back Zander Gray, Omaha Burke linebacker Nick Henrich, York linebacker Garrett Snodgrass, Omaha Burke tight end Chris Hickman and Lincoln Southwest linebacker Caden McCormack.
Gray is one of the best running backs in the 2019 class and plays under former Husker running back Damon Benning at Omaha North. Hail Varsity also spoke with Gray to gauge his feelings about the visit to Nebraska.
“It went very well,” Gray said. “It was a nice experience for them to show us the academic side of it, telling us we always have to study, and to get out of it you have to have a high GPA and be on your Ps and Qs so you can really stay focused.”
Gray said his favorite part of the day was the photo shoot where the players got to put on a jersey, and he also enjoyed getting some feedback from running backs coach Reggie Davis.
Overall, Gray said the visit was an eye-opening experience for him.
“At first, when I was little I never pictured myself visiting Nebraska or thinking about going there because I always wanted to go out of state,” Gray said. “When I took the visit, it changed my mind and my perspective about the school and how they handle things up there and how they take care of the players a lot.”
All of these players are worth keeping an eye on as junior — or underclassman — day is just the beginning for many of them. It is a valuable tool for the Nebraska coaches to build relationships with and get an up-close look at some of the best players in the state, and it’s also a pretty cool experience for the players themselves.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.