Chad Alioth Jr. had a mandatory class field trip on Saturday.
Alioth is a freshman in the Nebraska College of Architecture, on a full-ride academic scholarship. As an eighth-grader, he applied for the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy, a program open to first generation college students who will be entering high school. He had to write an essay and make it through an interview, then survive an advanced course load all four years of high school while maintaining above a 3.25 GPA. On top of that, Alioth was playing wide receiver for Omaha North High Magnet School.
A week before the Huskers held a tryout for UNL students to attempt to walk on to the team, Alioth opened Twitter, searched for the Huskers’ football handle and happened upon a tweet right at the top of the page.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) August 18, 2017
“Here’s my chance,” he thought.
The 6-foot-2 wide receiver has spent his life in Nebraska. He was raised in Omaha and bred to be a Cornhusker. His senior season at Omaha North wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it didn’t show who he thought he was as a player. He had two offers to play at smaller schools in the state, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Midland University, but chose to head for Lincoln because neither offered an architecture program.
“I want to make buildings look cool and meaningful,” he said. “I want to make the world a better place.”
As for football? Turning down his only two athletic scholarships meant that would take a backseat.
“I stopped playing football,” Alioth said. “But my friends ended up playing college football so I ended up working out with them just for fun.”
By the time he arrived on campus, Nebraska had already held spring tryouts for anyone that hoped to walk on. Then came the tweet, and a message from his cousin. Alioth calls him Spurlock, and he pushed Alioth to try out, encouraged him and told him he was good enough to make it.
“He’s the reason I started football and he was encouraging me to go out for the tryouts and try all this,” Alioth said. “He was always there just giving me constant motivation.”
So Alioth filled out the necessary paperwork, turned in his registration packet, and prepared for the Sunday tryout. Then Nebraska changed things up and rescheduled things for Saturday. Alioth reached out to the coaching staff and asked for an individual tryout early Saturday morning, before they would see anyone else. The class field trip was mandatory, and everyone was missing things to attend.
The actual tryout was what he expected. First up was measurements – checking his weight, height, arm span, etc. – followed by stretching with defensive backs coach Donte Williams. After that, it was time for the 40-yard dash and the 5-10-5 shuttle run. “I felt like I needed to get warmed up some more,” Alioth said. So first up was the shuttle run to warm up his legs, followed by the 40. Then there was some route running and ball catching exercises and just like that, the tryout was over.
“I felt good. I mean nobody’s perfect, I had some mistakes and I was just thinking about what I needed to work on,” he said. “The thing I liked, they kept me controlled.”
Throughout the entire workout, Alioth had members of the Nebraska staff in his ear, telling him to take his time and stay calm.
“You’re by yourself,” they said. “This is your show, take control.”
He was sitting in a computer applications class Monday morning when his phone buzzed with a new email notification. “Come to the football office around 2:30,” it read. Once he got there, he heard three things. The first, a question: “when is your first class tomorrow?” The second, an instruction: “be here at 8:15 a.m.” The third, something he didn’t expect to hear: “you made the team.”
“A lot went through my mind” Alioth said. “I was happy. I was just like, I did it, but this is just the beginning of everything. I’ve gotta work harder, gotta commit. I have friends that are in football and they say it’s a job. Now I’ve got to be fully committed.”
Alioth first sent a message in his group chat to his closest friends, followed by his parents and then Spurlock. With each message, reality began to set in that he was going to be a part of the Nebraska football family.
The Huskers have a long and storied history when it comes to walk-ons, but Alioth knows nothing is given. He considers himself a possession receiver and a solid route runner, but knows he needs to improve after the catch. “If you need a first, I’ll get you the first,” he likes to say. Above all else, he wants to work.
“I just want to get better and have a good experience,” he said. “I know going into it, some people don’t play and you can’t be selfish. As long as I get better and the whole team gets better and has a good experience, I’ll be fine with that.”
And he can’t wait to get to work with wideout coach Keith Williams. He and his friends would watch Williams’ workout videos he posts to Twitter during their senior year, looking for ways to get better and drills to run in their own workouts.
Now, he’ll get the real thing.
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.