LINCOLN — Nebraska’s giant spring game recruiting weekend started with a bang Friday night when cornerback Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles announced in an emotional video that he was committing to Nebraska.
A consensus top 50 national prospect — he’s No. 36 in the nation according to Rivals and 247Sports’ Composite service — Radley-Hiles shared the 90-second video via Twitter Friday night, which culminated in announcing his decision. It’s dedicated to his older brother, Brandon Webb, who died before Radley-Hiles was born. After visiting Webb’s grave and placing a No. 44 necklace on the headstone — he wears No. 44 because his brother died four years and four days before he was born — Radley-Hiles walks away, pulling off a Los Angeles Kings hockey jersey to reveal a Nebraska sweatshirt.
“I was thinking about building my legacy away from home and starting fresh in the heart of the country. A new city, new beginnings, new everything,” said Radley-Hiles, who is from from the Los Angeles area.
He is unofficially visiting NU this weekend and attended the Huskers’ Thursday practice, staying late to talk to cornerbacks coach Donte Williams, who has known Radley-Hiles for years. While head coach Mike Riley can’t officially acknowledge the commitment, he obliquely referred to it on Twitter shortly after Radley-Hiles’ video was released.
“The Huskers just landed an incredibly special young man!” Riley wrote. “He saw the vision. Time to keep it going!”
Nebraska has pursued Radley-Hiles for two years — almost the bulk of the time Riley has been at NU.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Radley-Hiles is part of the “Calibraska” contingent and the cousin of current Husker signee Tyjon Lindsey. He began his high school career at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman before transferring for his junior season to Calabasas (California) High School, where he played with current Huskers Tristan Gebbia and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. As a receiver, Radley-Hiles had 51 catches for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns. On defense, he had 54 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. He attended NU’s Friday Night Lights camp last June, where he impressed against a series of top 2017 prospects.
For his senior year, Radley-Hiles has transferred to IMG Academy, a sports-focused boarding school in Bradenton, Florida. IMG coach Kevin Wright said Radley-Hiles has already made his mark there.
“Bookie’s been a tremendous fit from the start. He’s a competitor,” Wright said of Radley-Hiles, who has been at IMG for a little more than three months. “What he lacks in height he makes up in his competitiveness. He runs well, uses his hands well. He’s a really good press coverage corner. If we needed him on offense, he’d play offense, too — he’s that athletic. Very dynamic guy, but first and foremost he’s a leader on and off the field. He made that impression since January.”
In an interview with Scout, Radley-Hiles said the presence of Lindsey, Gebbia and Johnson was an “extra positive” but not the determining factor in picking Nebraska. In an interview with The World-Herald’s “The Bottom Line,” Radley-Hiles said Lincoln — and the Husker fans — were a big draw.
“I was expecting — people would tell me — cornfields out there,” Radley-Hiles said. “When I got out there and I didn’t see any, I was, ‘So what was I supposed to be seeing?’ I didn’t know it was an actual city with a downtown. It looks like a real city. It is a real city.”
Radley-Hiles is the fifth commitment for the 2018 class, and he may not be the only one this weekend. Nebraska will be making a major press with so many prospects on campus to get more players in the boat.
Bookie’s in it already and becomes the highest-ranked prospect to commit to NU in the Riley era. The second highest? Lindsey.
That’s a cousin combo.