Consider it the “Dakota Connection.” Though the Huskers had the 1994 game against Oklahoma State in-hand, the play reflected how Darin Erstad (North Dakota) and Jon Vedral (South Dakota) contributed during Coach Tom Osborne’s first national championship season.
After Lawrence Phillips’ third touchdown made the score 23-3, Erstad, who had kicked a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter to make the score 9-3, came on to kick the extra-point. The snap was bad, but Vedral, the holder, picked up the ball and passed to Erstad for the two-point conversion.
Vedral was a walk-on. Erstad, listed as a 1994 scholarship recruit because he was already on baseball scholarship and NCAA rules required that it count against the football maximum, played only one season, his junior year because he was the first pick in the 1995 MLB Draft. Osborne said if not for baseball considerations, the athletic Erstad could have done more than punt and be a back-up kicker.
In any case, Nebraska hasn’t recruited a lot in North and South Dakota. Only four scholarship recruits have come from either of those states since 1997, not counting Ricky Henry, who transferred from North Dakota College of Science in 2008. Henry was from Omaha. Ryan Schuler (South Dakota) was in Frank Solich’s final recruiting class in 2003. Brent Qvale (North Dakota) was in Bo Pelini’s 2009 class. Nate Gerry (South Dakota) was in Pelini’s 2013 class. And Matt Farniok, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle from Sioux Falls, S.D., was in Mike Riley’s second class in 2016.
The reason for lack of scholarship recruits from the Dakotas is obvious: small population bases. But three Husker All-Americans have called South Dakota home. So here’s a top 10 from the Dakotas, with a few others deserving consideration, among them Jon Vedral’s brothers Mark, a linebacker, (1998-99-00-01), and Mike, a tight end (1990-91-92). Mike also walked on.
10. Darin Erstad, P-PK, Jamestown, N.D. (1994)
Averaged 41.2 yards per punt, three field goals, including 46- and 48-yarders; Academic All-Big Eight
9. Jon Vedral, WB, Gregory, S.D. (1994-95-96)
Walk-on, alternated with Clester Johnson in 1995, started in 1996, special teams, three-year holder, eight career TDs
8. Brent Qvale, OT, Williston, N.D. (2010-11-12-13)
Two-year starter, one full-time, three-time Academic All-Big Ten
7. Tom Welter, OT, Yankton, S.D. (1985-86)
Two-year starter, first-team All-Big Eight and Academic All-Big Eight in 1986
6. Kevin Seibel, PK, Vermillion, S.D. (1979-80-81-82)
Three-year starter, numerous Husker place-kicking records, including 151-of-156 (.968) career extra points
5. Bill Janssen, DT, Grand Forks, N.D. (1969-71-72)
Two-year starter, missed 1970 with broken arm, co-captain and Academic All-Big Eight in 1972
4. Nathan Gerry, S, Sioux Falls, S.D. (2013-14-15-16)
Three-year starter, coaches first-team All-Big Ten and AP third-team All-American in 2016, two-time co-captain
3. Randy Schleusener, OG, Rapid City, S.D. (1978-79-80)
Consensus All-American, 1980 co-captain, scored on “fumbleroosky” in 1979, two-time first-team Academic All-American
2. John Dutton, DT, Rapid City, S.D. (1971-72-73)
Consensus All-American, co-captain in 1973, two-year starter, 5th pick in 1974 NFL Draft
1. Larry Jacobsen, DT, Sioux Falls, S.D. (1969-70-71)
NU’s first Outland Trophy winner, Lombardi Award finalist, consensus All-American, Academic All-American
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.