Kade Warner had a pretty solid senior season as a wide receiver for Desert Mountain High School out of Scottsdale, Arizona. It was successful enough that he set the Arizona state record for career receptions. Yet, Warner never received an FBS scholarship offer.
That’s where Nebraska comes into the picture. Alongside quite a few other programs, the Huskers are interested in Warner as preferred walk-on. With signing day now passed, it’s something Warner is considering. He’s even narrowed his final choices down between Nebraska, Iowa, Arizona State, UCLA and California.
Deciding between those programs won’t be easy, but Warner has some guidelines in mind as he makes a decision, especially as he plans to make an unofficial visit to Nebraska this weekend.
“Obviously being not a highly recruited receiver and not being 4 or 5-stars, stuff like that, and kind of falling through the cracks, it just basically comes to education – which plays a factor as much as anything at any school,” Warner said. “All of my schools right now have good programs academically, which I really enjoy. It also comes down to the coaches making me feel wanted despite falling through the cracks and not being a highly recruited guy. It’s tougher than you think to get coaches to touch base with you more often and simply ask how you are and maintain that contact.
“That’s kind of how I narrowed through my final schools and decided where I want to play based on the coaches showing me they want me on the team and that they have my best interest in their sight. It basically comes down to the coaches’ relationships with me and the academics of the school.”
Warner’s experience with recruiting is similar to his dad’s – soon-to-be Hall of Famer Kurt Warner – which has been a blessing for Warner as he’s gone through the process.
“Obviously recruiting is really complicated,” Warner said. “There’s no rhyme or reason I haven’t been [recruited]. That’s the same with [my dad]. He doesn’t know why he wasn’t recruited. I had one Division I-AA offer to the University of San Diego. He had one to UNI.”
As for the advice Warner’s father was able to provide? It was pretty much given from firsthand experience.
“It was just a very similar situation and he’s basically said to better myself as a player like he did when he was younger,” Warner said. “[He said to] just focus on my craft and not be the guy everyone wants me to be and just be the best I can to the best of my ability and also keep my faith, keep believing that God’s plan will come out for me no matter where I go.”
At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Warner could easily bring something different to Nebraska’s receivers in its 2017 recruiting class. As for how the connection was made, Blair Tushaus – a graduate assistant at Nebraska – is the man to thank. He previously coached at Desert Mountain in 2015, which is how he became familiar with Warner.
“We actually had a D-line coach – Blair Tushaus – who is actually at Nebraska now as a G.A., which kind of started the contact for me and a couple of other players on my team,” Warner said. “And then another Nebraska coach came out last week to watch one of the quarterbacks they may offer throw and I was just running around for him and I started talking to him and it sparked the conversation again between Coach Tushaus – I call him Coach Tus – and the other coaches about me being a preferred walk-on.”
Since then, Warner has had the opportunity to talk to other Nebraska coaches about how he may fit with the Huskers.
“I talked to Coach [Danny] Langsdorf about the offense and about the future of me in the offense and the pro-style and stuff like that,” Warner said.
Plus, Warner actually has a direct family connection to Nebraska. He also has a connection to Iowa, which has made the whole experience even a little more fun with his family.
“My cousin actually went to the University of Iowa and my uncle is a big Nebraska fan so there’s already a rivalry in their household so one is pulling for me to go to Iowa and the other pulling for me to go to Nebraska,” Warner said. “It’s a fun conversation when it comes up.”
And that uncle actually tried getting Warner on Nebraska’s radar sooner.
“He was always telling me, even when I started playing high school ball, that he wanted me to come to Nebraska,” Warner said. “He actually tried to email the coaches too with his little power. He tried his best to get me on their radar too.”
Warner does take his family’s advice and help seriously. He comes from a big family after all – he’s one of seven children in the Warner home – and he wouldn’t have it any other way. When he’s not playing football, he’s probably with his family or his friends (who are also pretty much family).
“Having a big family, there’s never a dull moment in my house so whatever I’m doing with them, whether it’s going outside and playing basketball or inside playing a game of heads-up, I love hanging out with them,” Warner said. “I also consider my friends a part of the family because they’re always over for dinner, always talking to the rest of my family. They’ll come over here and and I won’t even be home yet. I’ll get home later and be like, ‘What are you doing here, man?’”
Something Warner’s friends and family know about him is how hard he works. He not only coaches (“I really enjoy it because it gives me a opportunity to share my football knowledge with kids.”) but he also plans to be the best he can be no matter where he ends up.
“[I would want] not just Nebraska but any college to know that I will compete for anybody I can for as long as I can,” Warner said. “I’m just going to go out there and play my game to the best of my ability and I’ll give them my all every practice, every down, every game and try my best to put on a show for the fans.”
And wherever Warner does end up, he knows he’ll be there for all the right reasons.
“I’m not going to a school for a scholarship,” Warner said. “I’m going for the best fit for me.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.