Last weekend, Scottsbluff (Neb.) junior-to-be Garrett Nelson made the six-hour drive to Lincoln to join many players from all over the state and beyond at the Nebraska Big Man and Friday Night Lights camps. In doing so, Nelson fulfilled a dream by getting to play on the turf at Memorial Stadium.
“Finally I had my turn to play on the field,” Nelson said. “It was a dream come true. It felt like I was supposed to be there.”
Nelson’s goal heading into the camps was simple: make a good impression.
“I wanted to plant a seed in the coaches’ heads and make them remember my name, and hopefully in the coming years, they’d give me a call and offer me a scholarship,” Nelson said.
Mission accomplished. Nebraska surprised Nelson by extending an offer that same day.
“I was in shock; I couldn’t believe it,” Nelson said. “All my hard worked paying off in one moment and I teared up and hugged my father and my grandpa.”
Eight days later, Nelson pulled the trigger, committing to Nebraska on Saturday.
“If it’s a perfect school, why wait?” Nelson said. “It’s everything I’m looking for. Getting a degree and all the tutors and academic help and support that they give you is insane. The sports medicine side of it, making sure you stay healthy, making sure everything in your body is working perfectly fine. The strength and conditioning staff and all the coaches are what I’m looking for and what they want to do with the program and their mindset and who they are as people and how they take care of you and love it, it was perfect. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”
“It feels great, it feels amazing, like it was supposed to be my whole life,” Nelson said.
Nelson is a Husker legacy as both of his parents are Nebraska alumni. His father, Chris Nelson, was an All-American wrestler for the Huskers in the early 1990s. His grandfather, Ken Parish, was the head football coach at Cozad during the ‘60s and ‘70s and has been a big part of Nelson’s life on and off the field.
“My mom cried and my dad was very excited for me,” Nelson said. “My grandpa, I think, teared up a little bit too.”
Nelson is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive end who recorded 67 tackles including eight for loss, five sacks, one fumble recovery and one blocked field goal as a sophomore. He also recorded a 24-yard touchdown reception while playing tight end. The Bearcats went 8-2.
Nelson projects to move to outside linebacker at Nebraska and has the potential to play on either side.
“I watched a little bit of film on the position and I can’t wait,” Nelson said. “It looks like it will be a lot of fun, from edge rushing to reading runs to covering receivers and tight ends in space.”
According to Nelson, defense coordinator Bob Diaco sees him as a perfect fit for his version of the 3-4, and Nelson already has a great connection with the coaching staff.
“Coach Diaco is fired up about me being there and thinks I’ll be a really good fit for the position I’m going to play,” Nelson said. “Coach Parrella reminds me of my father. Everything just feels right and everything feels at home.”
Nelson still has two more years until he suits up for the Huskers, however. For now, he’s looking to lead his current team back to his future home: Memorial Stadium.
“[Our team is] really young and exciting,” Nelson said. “We went to Chadron team camp and everything, we vibe together really well. Our defense is insane; we all love to scream and shout and jump around when somebody makes a good play and rally to the ball. I can’t wait to show the fans that we’ve been working hard and what we’re made of.”
Nelson has some lofty goals for the Bearcats over the next two years.
“Team-wise, make Scottsbluff a football town again,” Nelson said. “We’ve had a lot of success with our basketball program and they’ve done really well. I want to get back to being a football town. It’s been 50 years since we’ve won a state championship so I want to get one of those before I leave and just have a good season, develop the kids mentally and physically and just enjoy the game of football.”
Personally, Nelson just wants to have fun and represent the Huskers well.
“Worry about doing well but don’t beat yourself down with it,” Nelson said. “Have fun, play football and be dominant. Don’t take a play off, go 100 percent, never give up on a play.”
Nelson is the first member of the 2019 class for the Huskers after 4-star athlete Marquez Beason, who committed after the spring game, reopened his recruitment in May.
Nelson is all in on Nebraska though and has a message for Husker fans.
“I appreciate all the love and support that Husker fans have shown me the past couple weeks and I can’t wait to continue the Blackshirt tradition,” Nelson said. “Coach Diaco is putting together the pieces of the puzzle to have a dominant defense.”
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.