Photo by Paul Bellinger
Nebraska Football

Noah Vedral's Journey Cool, Weird, 'But It's Mine Nonetheless'

May 17, 2020
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Noah Vedral is leaving Nebraska with two jerseys. One for football. One for basketball.

He’s known for football—at least at the collegiate level—but he has a background in basketball too. He played four varsity seasons at Wahoo Neumann in Wahoo, Nebraska, helping lead the Cavaliers to a 98-16 (.860) record with three state championships. As a senior, he averaged 13.6 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals. That’s why when Nebraska basketball was in a bit of a pinch with depth for the Big Ten Tournament, they turned to Vedral and teammate Brant Banks.

Those few days of work prior to the Big Ten Tournament probably sum Vedral up best. Ask him to do something and he’ll give it his all. That’s why—before he even knew if he’d make the trip to Indianapolis with Coach Fred Hoiberg and the basketball team—he spent his time preparing. After he’d already handled his football responsibilities, that is.

Vedral saw this spring as an opportunity to put that hard work into motion. He’s ready to be the starter of a football team, but he needed spring football to really push for the chance. Nebraska has a two-year starter in quarterback Adrian Martinez, but Coach Scott Frost said the competition was wide open at every spot on the team. Spring would have been Vedral’s chance.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. Vedral graduated in May with a degree in communications, so time was of the essence. As a graduate transfer, he would be eligible to play for another program right away. If he couldn’t have spring football to really push for playing time at Nebraska, it meant the possibility of looking elsewhere.

“I always do what I can to protect my career and I think every college athlete should,” Vedral told Hail Varsity. “You only get to do it for so long and nothing's ever guaranteed. The timing was unfortunate where really my best chance at competing for the starting job and making a run for it here was cut short.

“It would've been fun to finish it here with Coach Frost but again the dream is to play college football and to be the best college quarterback I can be and that's what we're chasing still.”

Frost wants the best for Vedral too. So after a couple of weeks in the transfer portal, Vedral made the decision that feels best. He’s heading to Rutgers

***

Rutgers hired Greg Schiano for his second stint as the head coach of the program in December. Schiano, a New Jersey native, previously coached the Scarlet Knights from 2001 to 2011. He went 68-67 during that time. 

Schiano returns to Rutgers after a stint as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012–13 and as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2016–18. He also returns with a plan to run a fast and phsyical offense, led by offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson. The offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2019, Gleeson started earning coaching buzz for his offense at Princeton. It’s an offensive system that appears to fit Vedral’s skillset well.

“I think that the system Coach Gleeson is going to run fits me really, really well,” Vedral said. “It's going to be up-tempo fast, which is what my favorite part of Coach Frost's offense has always been. I get to keep that as part of something that I do well and something that I get to do in the future, which was exciting.”

Vedral had other offers. Programs like Northern Illinois, Boise State and Utah State were all interested in the 6-foot-1, 200-pound quarterback. Making a decision wasn’t easy—especially without the ability to visit any programs right now—but Vedral was intrigued by Schiano and Gleeson for a number of reasons. That goes beyond just the playing time.

Vedral wants to coach one day. He’s not sure the path he’ll take to get there, but he knows that’s where his heart is. When programs started calling, Rutgers stood out in that area too.

“From talking to Schiano and Rutgers, they present the best-case scenario for him to play the next two years but also set him up for the next 20 to 30 years,” Thomas Viglianco said. “It's one of those things where through the wide-ranging connections from Rutgers University on the East Coast and worldwide, there are a lot of doors that are going to be opened for Noah, that he never would have thought of being just in Nebraska.”

Viglianco—who played college basketball for William & Mary and then nine professional seasons in Europe—knows what those kind of connections can mean for a player. As a player development coach and mentor for middle school, high school, college and professional basketball players, Viglianco has traveled the world and met a lot of people. Having known Vedral and his family for several years, he knows what this all could mean for a guy like Vedral.

Don’t get Viglianco wrong though. Nebraska can open doors. Central Florida can too. For Vedral—who started his college career with Frost at UCF before transferring to Nebraska in 2018—he is quickly building a tree of contacts for the future. Rutgers is another step in that direction.

For now, Vedral plans to pursue an MBA. He wants something to work for, something that’s there for him when football ends and if coaching doesn’t work out. That’s why he works hard in school. He wants to know he has options if and when the time comes.

Before he can start thinking about what’s next though, Vedral has two years of eligibility at Rutgers. He wants to push for that starting role.

***

Vedral has never been to New Jersey. 

The restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Vedral had to make a decision without visiting a program. When he arrives on Rutgers campus—he’s hoping to get on campus by the end of May but the situation is fluid—everything will be new.

What’s not new for Vedral is adjusting to new places. Orlando and Central Florida were new once, too. He’s confident he’ll quickly get used to New Jersey. He already knows New York City is only a 40-minute train ride away—another spot he’s never been—and he’s talked with Nebraska tight end Travis Vokolek about what to expect. Vokolek transferred to Nebraska in 2019 from Rutgers, so he’s been able to offer some advice to Vedral as he prepares for the move.

“He told me I need to say what’s up to some of the boys up there and I said I will,” Vedral said. “He told me I need to eat at a place on campus called RU Hungry?, and it's a sandwich shop that's apparently famous on campus for the best sandwiches around. I'm like, ‘All right man. I like good food. I will definitely check that out.’”

Vedral also plans to take that train into the city when he’s able to see and try even more new things. Maybe a real slice of New York-style pizza. That’s the fun part of traveling, Vedral will tell you. He’s a big on stepping out of his comfort zone, which Viglianco believes will serve him well.

“It's all about experiences, life experiences on a résumé that could speak to more people because it's real,” Viglianco said. “I’ve told Noah so many times that the more experiences you can have, the more things you can have on your resumé to be able to show coaches or people looking at you for a job. If you're a leader and you're in some leadership position, that's what makes you more appealing to people.

“Because if you can say, ‘Hey, I played football in Nebraska.’ Oh, what else? I went off to UCF, I had a chance to start, just didn't quite get it. This, this, this. Won a national championship, wink, wink. Came back to Nebraska, fought my butt off, played for my whole team. Fought like crazy, went to Rutgers, out of my comfort zone, did this. Was with Schiano, NFL guys, all this stuff. Had a chance to do this. When you're 27 years old and you're in coaching, that resumé is going to speak volumes to someone that may have only went this certain route.”

And that’s what excites Vedral most about this new chapter. He’ll miss those he’s leaving behind—he’s clear he’ll always have a deep appreciation for Frost and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco—but he knows he’ll never lose those connections. Plus, he’ll see his Nebraska teammates again in October. The Huskers and Scarlet Knights are currently scheduled to meet Oct. 24 in New Jersey.

For now though, Vedral is focused on chasing his dreams. He admits his path so far hasn’t been a conventional one, but that’s OK.

“I feel that through my career, I've done my best to do what's best for me but also for the people around me,” Vedral said. “It's a team game and you don't want to leave a place high and dry. You don't want to leave a place shorthanded and stuff like that. I've been asked about what the quarterback room will be like in Nebraska and they're going to be just fine. They have talented kids. All of the guys in that room are more than qualified and more than capable of being great quarterbacks.

“I feel like I've been able to do the right thing through this and I've tried to handle this process in a way that's upright and honest and doing things the right way. I do think it's been a weird, winding road, but I'll have some stories and I've probably got an experience that no one else in college football is going to have. Honestly, I hope nobody else has. It’s been a cool, weird journey but it's mine nonetheless.”

Another chapter on that journey is now closing. Vedral is Rutgers-bound, but he’s leaving with plenty of memories and experiences.

That and two Nebraska jerseys.

 
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