The January issue of Hail Varsity is all about the journey. How a bunch of otherwise unconnected Husker commits form a bond before even getting to campus. How a Kentucky star turned down home. How a small-town kid finally got recognized.
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After spending a couple days in Blanchard, Oklahoma, with 4-star wideout Jamie Nance, there was a lot to get through. My piece in the January issue of Hail Varsity is about Nance’s journey to Nebraska and the weight on his shoulders, but there was a bunch of other stuff learned throughout the process that just didn’t fit in that story.
So, here are some leftovers from that visit.
>> Travis Hartfield, a close personal friend of Nance for the past three years, didn't think there was really a word to describe what he was to Nance. A former Oklahoma State wide receiver, Hartfield was able to help with football questions Nance had as he went through the recruiting process, but his role, as he described it, is more of "life coach."
As such, they're staying in touch and Hartfield is planning to visit for the Huskers' Spring Game in April. Being at Oklahoma State, he's played at Memorial Stadium before. Back when the Big 12 was the Big Eight, Hartfield made the trip to Lincoln and called the experience "unreal."
"I told [Nance] that I have never been in a stadium like that," he said. "There’s no experience in the college football world that I have seen, personally, that is like walking into Nebraska stadium. That’s all I could tell him."
Nance says he's excited to experience a game day in Lincoln.
>> Getting to Lincoln early was a big deal for Nance.
"He knows what he wants to do and is accomplishing those things and to me, that’s the indicator for success," said his trainer for this past year, J.D. Runnels. "The kids that wait around and aren’t qualified or don’t make it in time or whatever, to colleges those are excuses. To Jamie, getting there early is a big deal. Showing up in shape is a big deal. Getting his classes underway is a big deal."
So much so that Nance's mother, Lexi Davis had to almost fight to keep him home through Christmas. He's got a bond with Kentucky athlete Wandale Robinson and wanted to get in town to start building that chemistry with his teammates.
"He's ready to get down there," Davis said before the made the trip up on Jan. 4. "He really is. He's kinda got everything in order how he thinks it's going to go.
"His goal is just to get there and feel comfortable."
>> If he wasn't playing football, Nance said he would probably shoot for some kind of career in business or journalism.
"I took media this year so that boosted my confidence a lot more, helped me get out of my comfort zone," he said. "I think communication's a key in life."
>> A 4-star multi-sport athlete living in Oklahoma his entire life didn't get an offer from either in-state school. The Sooners signed three 5-star wideouts in their last class, so perhaps not going after Nance can be explained for them, but for Oklahoma State to not offer seems strange.
Nance was more interested in OSU, too, he says.
"They never really extended an offer to me, neither of them did," he said. "For the most part, I do watch their offense too and I get told that I could fit but they never invested and I moved on.
"I want to play OU, especially, and beat them when the time comes. I'm looking forward to that."
Nebraska goes to Norman on Sept. 18, 2021. Nance could be a redshirt sophomore or a junior when that game rolls around.
>> Nance's dad, James, was happy to see him land at Nebraska. He didn't care where his son went as long as it was the right spot.
"I just wanted him to go somewhere where he was needed, not wanted. For him to make his own decision. I'm happy for him," James said. "I loved [the Husker staff]. They're very friendly, family-oriented, nice. I’m glad he’s going there because just from the visit I've taken, I know he's going to be taken care of."
He also thinks Nance's game can grow properly in Scott Frost's offense. He's not worried about the school part or Nance adjusting to the college game. "When he's on the field, he's focused, he's not playing around," James said. The biggest thing lacking from his time at Blanchard High School was a consistent deep ball. That probably won't be the case at Nebraska with quarterback Adrian Martinez.
>> Runnels, who played fullback at the college and pro level, says the strongest part of Nance's game is his versatility as a wideout.
"When you play receiver, so many receivers get limited to fade balls, just throwing a little hitch and getting a jet sweep or something like that," he said. "Jamie is very, very versatile in the sense he’ll block you tough, he’ll play some defense."
Nance played defensive back at Blanchard, too.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.