After converting all three of his field goal attempts in Nebraska’s 30-23 win against Penn State on Saturday, Connor Culp spent his evening eating dinner with his parents.
Culp had walked to meet his parents after the game, leaving his truck at the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel. The truck didn’t fit in the parking garage, so the hotel gave him a pass to park outside in the bus lane.
After dinner, Culp walked back to his truck, but when he reached into his pocket to grab his keys, they weren’t there.
“That was a little alarming to start with,” Culp told reporters on Tuesday, decked out in a camo jacket and a matching Nebraska hat.
Culp said he looked everywhere he could think of, backtracking throughout his day, but to no avail. He planned to get a spare made and return to pick up his truck on Sunday morning, but when he got there the truck was gone.
Last night I had my truck stolen in Lincoln Nebraska at the CornHusker hotel. It’s a white 2002 dodge 2500. It has a shell over the bed and has an Arizona license plate with a Cummins and Browning sticker on the back. Please let me or the police know if you see it. Thank you #GBR
— Connor Culp (@culpyy18) November 15, 2020
Fortunately, the story has a (mostly) happy ending.
“I got it back yesterday morning, thankfully,” Culp said. “I want to thank everyone that has helped in the search and has kept an eye out, that was awesome and I really can’t appreciate it enough.”
“They found it about a mile away from the Cornhusker,” Culp continued. “The people that took it took it off-roading, enjoyed themselves a little bit, and then unfortunately got two flat tires out of it, but I’d rather take that than having a totaled truck.”
Stolen truck and flat tires aside, Culp’s career in Lincoln has gotten off to a pretty solid start. The senior kicker from Phoenix, Arizona, came to Nebraska as a graduate transfer this offseason after he spent his first four years of college at LSU.
Culp started for the Tigers as a redshirt freshman, connecting on 11-of-16 field goal attempts and 20-of-23 extra points. He got beat out by others as a sophomore and junior, however.
“Those last two years I really missed being back out on the field,” Culp said. “My whole mindset was to get my degree and if an opportunity opens to go try and pursue another season and be able to kick again — kind of just keep my head down, roll with the punches and just wait for another opportunity.”
That opportunity came at Nebraska’s where kicking issues might have cost the team a couple of wins in 2019. Nebraska’s collection of kickers (which included a punter, a walk-on safety and a club soccer player) combined to go 12-of-20 field goals and 40-of-42 on extra points.
Gabe Heins, a redshirt freshman, is the only kicker from that group who returned for 2020 (the safety, Lane McCallum, is now listed as an outside linebacker). In addition to Culp, Nebraska added a junior college transfer in Iowa Western product Chase Contreraz and a pair of high school recruits in Tyler Crawford and Ryan Novosel. The Huskers held an open competition to find their next kicker and Culp won the battle.
“It feels great, honestly,” Culp said. “I couldn’t wait to get back out onto the field. By no means was the position handed to me. The kickers here now have definitely driven me to be perfect and really try to master my craft. I can’t thank them enough, because they’ve really driven me to help build my confidence and have a little competition along the way to kind of push me into doing better and better.”
Culp has made six of his seven field goals and hasn’t missed on six extra point attempts through three games. He also has five touchbacks on 14 kickoffs, and Nebraska’s done a better job of covering kickoffs than last year as well for the most part.
Kickers need to have a short memory, and that’s something Culp has really embraced. He doesn’t really ever look back, no matter how good or bad a kick was.
“I’m always trying to get better every day,” Culp said. “Penn State and all the other games are in the past now; I’m only focusing on Illinois and working hard every day and making sure that I still hit the ball how I would like to and hitting it well. I personally don’t look back at certain kicks once they’ve happened; they’ve already happened and I look to just get better every day and keep my head down regardless of the performance I may have had.”
Culp also hasn’t spent any time looking ahead to next season. The NCAA’s decision to discount the 2020 season in regards to eligibility means Culp could come back for one more season — and a sixth year of college — if he so desired.
For now, however, he’s focused solely on Illinois. Whatever the future holds for him, hopefully it doesn’t include any more stolen vehicles.
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.