LINCOLN — Mikale Wilbon had to move fast.
The rumors of James Franklin leaving Vanderbilt became reality Jan. 10. Suddenly, Wilbon, who was committed to the Commodores, felt like a running back stranded with the football on a broken play.
He could stick with Vandy, follow Franklin to Penn State or take a chance and open up his recruitment less than four weeks from signing day.
He had to do something other than sit and feel sorry for himself.
“I was real disappointed, because I was really starting to love Vandy, and I could see myself going there,” Wilbon said. “It's a great school academically and I wanted to play for Coach Franklin.
“(But) I got right back up, and I tried to look at it as a positive.”
Shortly after an impromptu group chat and some exchanged texts with his parents, who were both at work, Wilbon went to Twitter to let it be known that he was officially decommitting. Then he waited.
Wilbon never would have guessed that it would lead to Nebraska being one of the first to respond.
A whirlwind courtship followed and a rewritten ending will come Wednesday when the 5-foot-9 195-pounder out of Chicago signs with the Huskers.
“It was really exciting,” said Wilbon, who drew interest from several schools after his decision to decommit from Vandy. “Usually running backs commit early in the process, and you figure most schools already have who they want.”
Nebraska ended up landing one that it had first offered last spring, and one that 247Sports national insider Steve Wiltfong says “will be a guy that can make an impact in Lincoln.”
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“There were some really good backs in Chicago, and he's arguably the best one,” Wiltfong told The World-Herald.
Wilbon visited NU the weekend after the Franklin news broke, then committed Jan. 26 when Husker coach Bo Pelini and assistant Ron Brown made an in-home visit to the senior from De La Salle Institute in Chicago. He then passed up possible trips to Missouri and Penn State to make it official.
“There was a time I was thinking about sticking with Vanderbilt ... but I don't know,” Wilbon said. “I was praying about it and it didn't feel right. And I just think everything happens for a reason.”
Wilbon fell just short of 1,000 rushing yards each of the last two years after injuries cut into both seasons. He is currently rehabbing a knee injury that ended his senior year after he ran for 984 yards and 16 touchdowns in De La Salle's first seven games.
Wilbon said he loves how NU senior-to-be Ameer Abdullah is used in the Husker offense, and believes he can do all the things that the Huskers ask their I-backs to do.
“I'm so in love with the running back position that I try to study NFL greats, NFL backs now and college backs, and always try to work on having an all-around game,” he said. “I've been playing it since I was 7 years old. I don't want to play any other position.”
Rivals.com ranks Wilbon as the No. 168 prospect overall on its Rivals250 list, and No. 9 in Illinois and No. 16 among running backs. Both Rivals and 247Sports have him as a four-star recruit.
Wiltfong calls him “rocked up” and “a powerful guy” because of his build, but also somebody with good speed who can change directions. De La Salle coach Mike Boehm said he's “one of those special backs.”
“De La Salle went as Wilbon went, so when he got hurt they didn't play very well without him,” Wiltfong said. “They have some good players, but he was kind of the pulse and the guy that made that team go.”
Shortly after committing to Vanderbilt last April, Wilbon remembers NU assistant John Garrison shaking his hand and congratulating him when Garrison stopped by De La Salle to see the Meteors' staff and talk about some other prospects.
More than eight months passed before Wilbon ever gave that handshake another thought.
“It all happened so fast with Nebraska,” Wiltfong said. “I'm a big believer that kids don't know how special Nebraska is until they get there. And then they get there and they're blown away.”