When Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini enters a recruit’s home, he must do more than sell the young man and his parents on the merits of the University of Nebraska.
For when push comes to shove, most Husker recruits will have many opportunities to receive tuition-free educations, play in front of thousands of fans and enter the national spotlight.
After all, Nebraska is not the only school with an 80,000-plus seat stadium. It is one of many programs hosted by conferences with glamorous television deals. And one can bet that Pelini and his assistants are not the only coaches spouting claims regarding how well a recruit will fit into their system.
So why Nebraska?
Bo Pelini’s best answer to that question comes down to the accomplishments of his former players and the unmatched Nebraska football culture.
Particularly on the defensive side of the ball, it is hard to find Bo Pelini’s equal in churning out NFL talent.
After the latest troubles haunting the Blackshirts, it is difficult to heap any praise upon Pelini’s defenses. Yet there is no denying the number of Husker defenders who have made it into the professional ranks.
Of course, there are the superstars like Ndamukong Suh, Prince Amukamara and Lavonte David, who have each made instant contributions in the NFL as expected.
But the list extends far beyond these three headliners. Eric Hagg, Dejon Gomes, Jared Crick and Alfonzo Dennard have also enjoyed professional careers since departing Lincoln, Neb. And their successes allow any recruit to imagine the possibilities when playing under coach Bo Pelini.
Although a few other programs may be able to match the NFL products produced by Nebraska in recent years, the culture surrounding the Huskers' program is truly one of a kind.
Other schools are certainly devoted to their teams. And they may claim to live and die with every fall Saturday, but nothing compares to Nebraska football.
The most popular explanation for this is the quantity of other sports entertainment in the state, or complete lack thereof.
For in the Cornhusker State, there are no top-tier professional sports. There is no Nebraska State University. And for all intents and purposes, there might as well not be any other sport besides football (no offense to Doug McDermott).
Now, this is definitely a daunting notion with which a high-profile recruit must come to grips, and it is not for everyone. But for the right young man with a thirst for instant celebrity-status, there is no better place than Nebraska.
Only in Nebraska do spring practice reports make front page headlines. And only in Nebraska are October sermons sure to mention the previous day’s result.
And it is just this level of attention that Bo Pelini must sell to his prospective players.
Elsewhere, at programs like USC and Miami, recruits will become autumn celebrities, the heroes of fall Saturdays. In Lincoln, the microscope upon these young men does not lift with the change of the seasons.
If the absurd attendance at the Red-White Game or the national record sellout streak are not indicative enough, a subscription to the Omaha World-Herald should adequately explain the most attractive feature of Nebraska’s program that Pelini can sell to his recruits.
When one commits to play at the University of Nebraska, he has embraced the state’s spotlight, even before setting foot on the field. And if that incredible buzz of excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the football program does not entice a prospective player, then he obviously belongs somewhere else.