LINCOLN, Neb. — Following Saturday night’s practice, Coach Mike Riley announced the captains for this year’s football team.
“We voted a couple days ago,” Riley said. “I told the coaches, we told the team and now I’m telling you. The captains are [wide receiver] Jordan Westerkamp and [center] Dylan Utter and [safety] Nate Gerry and [linebacker] Josh Banderas. And then the team has asked me – the seniors have asked me to name a Sam Foltz Captain of the Week for each game. That’s what the group is going to look like this year.”
All four players are seniors and all four are looked at by most as the leaders of their respective position groups. In addition, both Utter and Banderas are in-state players as Utter walked on from Papillion-La Vista before earning a scholarship last year and Banderas was a four-star recruit out of Lincoln Southwest.
Gerry’s inclusion is sure to raise some eyebrows as he is suspended for week one because of an undisclosed violation of team rules. Riley shared his reasoning for following the vote and allowing Gerry to be a captain despite his suspension.
“I think that the team respects Nate a ton,” Riley said. “Also, all of us with the team or on the team, we’ve all had stuff, and they all know that, from time to time in our lives. Nate made a mistake; that does not diminish him as a leader or what he’s done for this team through the years. He’s had a great, great offseason with this team and I think they recognized that. He’ll go on and make good decisions. I don’t think we’ll see any of this again. The team obviously really respects him.”
The most notable exclusion is fifth-year senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. Riley said he was a “little bit surprised” when Armstrong wasn’t one of the top four vote-getters, but said it has more to do with the abundance of senior leadership on the team than any failing of Armstrong.
“I told the seniors this when we were going to select captains as we had a meeting and talked about our selection of captains and talked about kind of a different format than a year ago. I told them the one thing that would happen here is there are lots of choices. I think I might have even said to you guys I was halfway encouraging let’s have game captains. We’ve got so many leaders right here within this group, the senior group. But I appreciate them, they came back to me and said let’s vote like we have before for captains, so we did that.
“I knew it was going to be hard. A guy like Tommy got lots of votes. But every team has a little different dynamic, new people emerge, it gets hard in competition. I found out that it’s not unprecedented here – Tommie Frazier was the quarterback of a national championship team and I don’t think he was a captain at that time; Scott Frost was not a captain at that time. Tommy is a leader, he’s a quarterback, everybody respects him. It was just very, very hard.”
Riley said he has yet to select the Sam Foltz Captain of the Week for next Saturday against Fresno State.
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.