LINCOLN — Nebraska senior captain and inside linebacker Chris Weber is the latest in a line of Elkhorn High School graduates who joined NU’s team as walk-ons and earned scholarships by their final seasons. Spencer Long, Jake Long, Trevor Roach and Graham Nabity were others. Weber, knowing he’s another successful Antler, credited Elkhorn’s coaching staff, including Mark Wortman and John Bacus.
“I like to believe it’s the people, too,” said Weber, who leads Nebraska with 88 tackles. “The people in Elkhorn who have raised those kids, the grade school system and the people in it. It’s all that.”
Though all five repeatedly appeared on Nebraska’s academic honor roll, Weber might be the brainiest of the bunch as a Campbell Trophy finalist. He’s been accepted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and plans to be a doctor.
“I’m looking forward to figuring out what I’m good at and where I can help people the most,” Weber said.
Roach, a starter on Nebraska’s 2014 team, was a mentor to Weber, who in turn has paid it forward to linebackers younger than he is.
“I tried to follow the same recipe he followed,” Weber said of Roach.
Diaco gushed about Weber after Tuesday’s practice.
“He’s such a special guy,” Diaco said. “Top-charts intangibles, and top-charts tangibles. Very smart, very tough, very caring. Big heart. Can see the big picture. Artful communicator. Just a special, special guy. I’m going to miss being around him for sure.”
One more time for Knevel
David Knevel recently thought back on his first college play. A self-described baby-faced, lanky redshirt freshman, he blocked a Florida Atlantic defender around the edge in unsightly fashion in the 2014 season opener.
“I locked up on a guy but it didn’t look pretty,” Knevel said following Tuesday’s practice inside the Hawks Center. “But I had to cut off a guy. I got the job done.”
Twelve starts and 30 career games later, Knevel will suit up in a Nebraska uniform for the last time Friday against Iowa. The 6-foot-9, 315-pounder is set to begin the game at right guard — his second straight start at the position after only playing tackle previously — after beating out redshirt freshman Matt Farniok for the job last week.
Knevel isn’t sure how he’ll process Friday, but knows the experience will be “special.” The native Canadian out of Brantford, Ontario, is welcoming in his parents and brother to watch.
The switch to guard has been a physical one, he said, and he asked most of Nebraska’s experienced guards for pointers and criticism. But it’s all been worth it to get back on the field for the last two games after the season-opening starter at right tackle suffered an early ankle injury and never recovered his job.
“I remember after the first practice (at guard) just going on the scout team and we had a few one-on-one reps,” Knevel said. “And I’m just like, ‘Man, my shoulders hurt a little bit more.’ Like your body, you’re just banging a lot more. It’s more compact and just quicker.”
Knevel will graduate in December and said he will assess his professional football options from there, beginning with the NFL. He is among the top draft prospects for the Canadian Football League, which has rules in place limiting “import” players but has no restrictions for Canadians.
A little experience as a guard can’t hurt his draft stock either, he said.
“I want to take my talents as far as I can,” Knevel said. “I don’t want to sell myself short. I want to be the best I can be.”
Hoppes says transfer worth it
Senior tight end Tyler Hoppes said the wait to play in a Nebraska uniform was worth it.
Hoppes, a Lincoln native, walked on after originally playing at Wayne State. He’ll be one of 21 seniors honored before Friday’s game.
“It’s everything that I wanted, all the work I put in its finally coming to life,” Hoppes said.
Hoppes has 30 receptions for 340 yards this season.
Junior Connely to be honored
Thomas Connely is a redshirt junior but will be honored during senior day. His time as a linebacker at Nebraska will come to a close at the end of the season.
“A guy like Thomas is great. He is a great part of this program,” linebackers coach Trent Bray said. “He works hard every day, he does what’s asked of him, he’s a good teammate, he does great in the classroom, he’s just a great example of a guy who cares about the program, invests himself in it whether he’s playing or not, and just cares.”
» Receiver JD Spielman didn’t practice Tuesday.
» Running back Devine Ozigbo (ankle) was suited and participating in warmups but moved with a slight limp. Safety Aaron Williams (neck) was a full participant.
» Former Huskers Ryker Fyfe and Dylan Utter attended Tuesday’s practice.
» Sophomore linebacker Mohammad Barry and true freshman Avery Roberts got extra reps in after practice. Barry was coaching up Roberts on a blocking sled.
Iowa at Nebraska
When: 3 p.m. Friday
Where: Memorial Stadium
Radio: 103.1 FM