When Nebraska secures a new football commitment, you’ll see Husker fans cheer across social media. A hefty amount of talent from all over is signing up to play for Mike Riley, but the NCAA recently did Nebraska perhaps the biggest favor it ever could in regards to recruiting.
Starting Aug. 1, schools are able to pick up the tab for a recruit and two parents or guardians to visit. With this ruling, the NCAA has given the thumbs up for Nebraska’s staff to roll out the red carpet not only for its athletic targets, but also for the people closest to them and quite possibly the ones that will ultimately help these recruits make their decision. Why is this so big?
While seeing the academic and athletic sides of what the Cornhuskers have to offer a prospect as a person and a player, one of Nebraska’s biggest recruiting assets will be on display for many who’d normally never be able to see it: the fans.
Two parents of current Huskers—one that prefers to remain anonymous and the other, Kim Westerkamp, mother of senior sensation wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp—were warmly welcomed by residents of the state.
“Lincoln was the only official visit where people ‘on the street’ knew who he was,” said the anonymous parent. “Strangers stopped us in restaurants or approached at breakfast in the hotel to say, ‘Welcome to Nebraska, we hope you like it here.’ And it wasn’t in a stalkerish, weird way, but in a genuine ‘welcoming’ way.”
Kim Westerkamp had a similar experience. “Jordan started being recruited by Nebraska as a sophomore," she said. "Everywhere we went in Lincoln, everyone we ran into was just truly genuinely nice. Six years ago when nobody knew who me and Bob (Westerkamp) were, they were just genuinely nice and that was just huge... When we went to the university, when we went to the hotel, went we went to the restaurant, the McDonald’s drive-thru, somebody passes by you and says, ‘Hi, have a good day!’ Simple, little things.”
There’s that word again: genuine. Both parents agreed that the fans and their fervor for the Big Red is a major influence in a recruit’s decision. Four-star wide receiver and legacy recruit Keyshawn Johnson Jr. can attest to that.
“They have these things that say, ‘Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football’ and I couldn’t agree more," said Johnson. "I feel that the Cornhuskers have probably the best fan base in America when it comes to college football. I feel a lot of love from them."
You can understand how important it is for Nebraska’s staff to have that sincerely pleasant demeanor on display as much as possible if a young man’s going to spend his most formidable years in the Cornhusker State.
Now that the NCAA says that schools can welcome parents and guardians with open arms, expect the Huskers to take full advantage of the new rules now that money isn’t an obstacle.
“Can I get back the thousands of dollars we spent?” asked the anonymous parent. “(Kids of lesser means) rarely had a parent at the visit. Even if you book early, a cross country ticket is $400-$500. Not everyone can afford that.
"We went because we wanted to see where our son might end up living, playing, etc. But in general with any big decision (car purchase, etc.), you want a second or third set of ears. Different people remember and interpret things differently and it's good to have mom and dad's perspective/input after a visit.”
Kim Westerkamp was vehement that the NCAA’s decision was a long time coming.
“Parents coming with (recruits), guardians coming with them, it should’ve been like that all along," she said. "How can you send a 17-year-old kid (to a school), have them come home and expect them to tell you about it and you make a decision?”
Johnson can affirm that it was a boon for his mother to finally see what Nebraska can offer for herself.
“When she finally got to see it, she fell in love with the Life Skills program and stuff like that. To have both of your parents’ perception of the school, them getting a free trip just like the athletes, because they put in as much work as I do, it’s pretty cool,” he said.
A scarlet and cream cookie bouquet should be sent to the NCAA offices. While Nebraska must work hard to catch up to the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world, this ruling helps perhaps no one more than the Cornhuskers.