Nebraska’s special teams have produced a huge game-changing play in each of the Huskers’ first two games. Against South Alabama, JD Spielman returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown. Last week against Colorado, Cam Taylor-Britt chased down the Buffaloes’ star receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. on a kickoff return and forced a fumble that Luke Reimer recovered.
“It’s two games in a row right now where we score on special teams in game one and then we cause a fumble in game two,” special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt said. “Those are gigantic plays week to week. If you can get one of those a week, you’re probably going to end up winning a lot of games. That just steals a possession.”
Taylor-Britt chasing Shenault down was impressive, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the Huskers had failed to recover the fumble. Enter Reimer, the true freshman walk-on from Lincoln North Star who was making his Husker debut.
As soon as he was given a clean bill of health after recovering from an injury suffered in fall camp, Reimer was plugged into the kickoff and kickoff return units. He was on the field when a misplaced kick led to a big return by Shenault. Reimer originally got blocked not he play but didn’t give up on it, and when Taylor-Britt punched the ball out near midfield Reimer was the first one to dive on it.
This was just a phenomenal effort by Cam Taylor-Britt to force the fumble and Luke Reimer to recover it. pic.twitter.com/7Sg2kBlAcy
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) September 8, 2019
“It was crazy. It was a lot of fun,” Reimer said. “I thought it was going to be more than me and Colorado guys, but it was just me and the Colorado guys. I just held onto the ball as hard as I could. They were scratching and grabbing at the ball. It was fun, but I never expected that to happen in my first game.”
Reimer was at the bottom of that pile for “what seemed like forever” but was maybe 30 seconds. He never lost possession of the football, calling it an “arm workout” with all the Buffaloes prying at the ball.
“It was just crazy how long it took for the refs to peel off the guys and get to the ball,” Reimer said.
The offense couldn’t take advantage of the extra possession to deliver the knockout blow, but that doesn’t change the significance of that play.
Just six true freshmen have played for the Huskers through two games. Reiner is the only walk-on among them. He said the last four months since he arrived on campus have been “pretty hectic.”
“Coming in here as a freshman walk-on, I wasn’t really expecting much,” Reimer said. “Just put my head down and grind in the weight room all summer and in workouts, then in fall camp I guess I made a pretty good impression on the coaches. It’s kind of unfortunate, I got injured halfway through fall camp with a little knee injury. Then after I got back, second week into the season, they said ‘You’re on kickoff and KOR.’ So was like ‘All right, let’s roll with it.’”
Nebraska brought in six inside linebackers including three scholarship recruits in the 2019 class. Reiner is the only one who’s seen the field to this point, although an injury prevented Nick Henrich from making a true push for early playing time.
“The two scholarship guys, Garrett Snodgrass and Jackson Hannah, they’re good players, they’re fast, they’re physical,” Reimer said. “So it just kind of surprised me how I leapfrogged them, I guess. I just went with it.”
Reimer originally committed to South Dakota State in June of 2018, but the Huskers gave him something to think about with an offer to walk on, and five months later he flipped his commitment to Nebraska. Inside linebackers coach and in-state recruiting coordinator Barrett Ruud said the Huskers got a little lucky with Reimer and also credited Kenny Wilhite, Nebraska’s director of high school relations and walk-on coordinator, for doing the heavy lifting with his recruitment.
Reimer moved from Kansas to Lincoln as a junior and said he didn’t want to leave behind friends and family for a second time.
“No disrespect to South Dakota State, they have a great program there, but I am where I want to be right now,” Reimer said. “I’m happy with it.”
Reimer made the 110-man fall camp roster and drew plenty of praise from his teammates and coaches before tweaking his knee in the team’s first scrimmage. Reimer said he got corrected a lot by the coaches during film study early on, but as practice rolled on he heard his name less and less during critiques and he started making more and more plays on the field.
“Number one, really good natural athlete,” Ruud said about Reimer. “And number two, some guys just have a knack for finding the ball. Some guys when they’re wrong, they end up in the right place. I don’t want to compare Luke to Lavonte David too early, but Lavonte had that. He came in and played real early and didn’t always know exactly where he was supposed to be, but he always ended up in the right spot. So some guys just have a natural feel for finding their way around the field.”
Reimer was in the right spot to recover the fumble, and you can expect to see him on special teams moving forward. The coaches told him that if his recovery went well, he’d play in as many games as he could. Barring another injury, don’t expect a redshirt season from Reimer.
The buzz Reimer has received early in his career led to plenty of feedback from friends and family and that’s only picked up even more since he recovered that fumble.
“They’re just super proud of me, and that means a lot because they’ve helped me so much to put me in the position I’m in right now,” Reimer said. “That feedback from them saying they’re proud of me and all the hard work I’ve put in, that’s just a really good feeling.”
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.