Rumors of how the Midwestern winds tend to sweep into Memorial Stadium reached Timmy Bleekrode before he chose Nebraska. He entered the transfer portal from Furman and, ultimately, chose to transfer to Nebraska despite the home field’s reputation. Bleekrode even met with Husker great Brett Maher ahead of last season. Despite the various college and professional kicking environments the Kearney graduate booted through since his freshman season at Nebraska in 2008, Memorial Stadium is always the most difficult, Maher told Bleekrode.
The kicker leaned into the wind. After all, those rushes of air are at his back the same amount as the other kicker. Bleekrode ultimately views the potential sharp winds through Memorial Stadium in the same way Frank Sinatra felt about New York City. If you could make it there, you can make it anywhere.
“My mindset is: I can kick in this stadium, I can kick anywhere,” Bleekrode told local media on Tuesday. “I use it as a challenge.”
Without Nebraska’s wind, he feels comfortable kicking from up to 55 yards. If that wind were at his back, he’d like his chances from up to 60 yards. That’s with his own confidence, abilities and coaching from special teams coordinator Ed Foley. Bleekrode enjoys the individual work and attention to detail Foley brings following his NFL coaching stint. An example of this would be maintaining a “competitive mindset” while kicking. During kickoff drill work, Bleekrode doesn’t always kick. Kickoffs specifically are too taxing on the leg to kick as often as needed in drills. While not kicking, Foley is teaching Bleekrode to run through as if he’s actually kicking. Bleekrode hasn’t kicked off at Nebraska but wants to compete for that spot in the summer.
“It’s easy to go through the motions there but keeping focused is what the pros do,” Bleekrode said.
Speaking of summer, Nebraska’s special teams unit gains a big-time leg ahead of fall camp. Omaha Westside senior Tristan Alvano signed to Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class and will kick on scholarship for the Huskers. Bleekrode embraces the competition. It’s an instance where he could potentially share wisdoms of college kicking while pushing each other to be better kickers. Alvano, after all, went a perfect 5-for-5 to win the Class A State Championship Game inside that windy home stadium back in November.
Other new faces Bleekrode is getting used to includes both long snappers. Marco Ortiz transferred from Florida and may be the front runner, considering his track record of turnover-free snaps for the Gators. Sophomore Camden Witucki is stepping up his role to challenge Ortiz. Bleekrode said while last year’s long snappers performed at a high level, he’s encouraged by the reps he’s gotten with the two snappers this spring. They’re still working with each other on the field not so much to fit into Foley’s scheme but to build a rhythm with each other.
“In terms of working with the new long snappers it’s just a case of getting more repetitions with them every day,” Bleekrode said, “finding the right distance to make sure laces are out on field goal or punters getting used to their punting snaps.”
With one remaining year of eligibility, Bleekrode hopes he can complete his MBA in business administration in December. That degree is important to him, giving him a foundational education in case his NFL hopes don’t take hold. It’s also a major reason he returned to Nebraska for the 2023 season.