Isaac Gifford has been around the Nebraska program for a long, long time. The Lincoln Southeast product and younger brother of former Husker Luke Gifford is a talented player in his own right who has received a handful of scholarship offers.
None of those offers came from Nebraska, however, despite countless official visits and steady communication with the staff. That changed on Saturday.
Well, sort of.
Gifford took another visit to meet with the coaches and Scott Frost offered him a “blueshirt" opportunity. That means Gifford would have to pay his own way as a walk-on for the spring and summer before receiving a scholarship at the start of fall camp.
A blueshirt allows a school to essentially add an unrecruited player (one who hasn’t taken an official visit) to its recruiting class without having him count towards the scholarship limit for that signing class so long as the player can pay his own way initially.
“When they brought it up it was new to me,” Gifford told Hail Varsity. “It was relieving, not really knowing where I stood before that day. It was nice to hear.”
Gifford took all day on Sunday to think about where he wanted to be. He was strongly considering Wyoming and Air Force in addition to Nebraska, but in the end the Huskers won out. He called Frost after school on Monday to tell him the news.
After a good talk with the coaches this past weekend, I’ve decided to sign with the University of Nebraska!#GBR #COMMITTED pic.twitter.com/SSno3MmwEO
— Isaac Gifford (@IsaacGifford2) December 16, 2019
Gifford said Frost was excited about both his commitment as well as the overall hot streak the Huskers are on right now in recruiting. Excluding Gifford, five players have committed to Nebraska in the last week and room in the class is starting to get tight. Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher has been as successful as any coach on the staff at closing on the team’s top secondary targets. He landed four defensive backs in the 2019 class and is sitting on three more in 2020, which is why the staff faced a dilemma with Gifford. He was too talented to land as a traditional walk-on, but did they have the room to offer him a scholarship?
The blueshirt path gives Nebraska the best of both worlds, and Gifford said the communication with the staff was good throughout the process.
“I talked to them quite a bit here and there,” Gifford said. “I kind of knew they were trying to get stuff figured out. It was tough, tested my patience a few times, but I’m just glad to get it done with.”
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Gifford has played both safety and linebacker during his high school career. He has the size and athleticism to fit into a hybrid role at Nebraska, plugging in at either safety or linebacker in sub-packages.
“I can see myself playing in multiple different roles,” Gifford said. “I think Coach Frost wants me to play safety, which I will totally do that. I’m glad to play safety, and if I move down to linebacker, then I’ll play linebacker.”
The Knights went 9-2 this season, falling to eventual state runner-up Omaha Westside in the second round of the Class A state tournament. On defense, Gifford had 71 tackles (21 solo), a team-high six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception. On offense, Gifford ran the ball 34 times for 298 yards (8.8 per carry) and five touchdowns, he caught five passes for 56 yards (11.2 yards per catch) and another score and he completed his only pass attempt for 35 yards. On special teams, he returned six kickoffs for 118 yards (19.7 yards per return) and four punts for 50 yards (12.5 yards per return).
“It was good,” Gifford said about his senior season. “It was a tough ending, we didn’t make it as far as we wanted to, but that’s how it works sometimes. I thought we had a great season … It was pretty easy team to play with because we all got along, we all love each other. Those are some friends that I’ll never forget. This year I think I’ve just grown as a leader.”
Gifford said he relied on his Luke, now playing for the Dallas Cowboys, throughout his recruitment, though Luke made sure not to put any kind of pressure on him when it came to Nebraska.
“It’s hard for him to kind of tell me what to do because I’ve got to make the decision on my own in the end,” Isaac said. “But whenever I have questions, I’m calling him, I’m texting him, because he knows and he knows his football. I relied quite a bit to be honest.”
Gifford said he decided over the summer that he wanted to graduate from high school early and get a head start on his college career no matter where he committed to.
“In July after I finished summer basketball, I was kind of like, ‘You know what? I think I can make an impact by going early somewhere and start playing right away.”
Like Luke, Gifford is a talented basketball player as well as a standout on the gridiron, and graduating early meant hanging up his sneakers. He said he misses basketball “a little bit,” but his excitement for what’s next makes up for it.
“It’s a little different for me because I know I’m about to go graduate and play football again,” Gifford said. “If I wasn’t playing football this next semester, then I would probably miss it a lot more.”
With one chapter coming to a closer, Gifford has to quickly turn his attention to getting everything ready to begin college. The spring semester at Nebraska begins on Jan. 13 and we’re just three short months away from spring ball.
Gifford said he can’t wait until he gets to wear the N on his helmet.
“I can’t wait to step on the field on game day,” Gifford said. “It’s something that every Nebraska kid dreams of.”
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.