LINCOLN — Creighton Koley can explain his reasoning for becoming a Nebraska football walk-on in one simple sentence.
“I never wanted to sell myself short,” Koley said.
Koley will take that attitude to NU after the Omaha Skutt senior and 17 others were announced Wednesday as Husker walk-ons for 2014.
The Nebraska offer easily won out for the 6-foot, 180-pound safety, who was committed to NCAA Division II Northern State. Koley had been talking to some Football Championship Subdivision teams, including South Dakota State and South Dakota, until a knee injury last season led to most of those becoming walk-on instead of scholarship offers.
So all Nebraska had to do was ask.
“Like I always told my parents, there was only one place I'd ever walk on if I had the opportunity, and it was Nebraska,” Koley said. “So when it came to Nebraska, it was kind of wanting to follow my dream since I was a little boy. To pass up that opportunity when I had it would just be dumb of me.”
Koley missed Skutt's first two games last season with a dislocated elbow and then all of the Class B playoffs with meniscus and ligament damage to a knee. If Koley would seem a long shot to succeed in Lincoln, however, all one has to do is look at the example set by his Skutt head coach.
Matt Turman walked on at NU in 1992, tried defensive back and receiver and then eventually became an important backup quarterback. With Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer shelved by injuries in 1994, Turman led the Huskers to a mid-season win at Kansas State that kept alive a national championship season.
“He's told me if he ever had the chance to walk on (at NU) that it's something he would jump at,” Turman said. “I didn't have to do any convincing or do any persuading or say, 'Hey, you should give it a shot.' ”
In fact, Turman said Koley had to give it very little thought after getting a call last month from Jeff Jamrog, NU's assistant athletic director for football operations. Only an hour or so after the offer was out there, Koley decided to call back, say “I'm in” and tell Jamrog he didn't need to take the visit first.
Koley started at outside linebacker for Skutt as a sophomore, then moved to the secondary during his junior year when a SkyHawk safety was injured. He rotated at quarterback as a junior before taking over as a senior.
Playing the equivalent of six games last season, Koley passed for 673 yards and seven touchdowns, and ran for 366 and six TDs. Defensively he was credited with 35 total tackles and returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
“I was really happy that Nebraska still gave him a shot,” Turman said. “Because, honestly, I think that he was one of — if not the best — safeties in the state this year, regardless of the class. Just a nose for the football, likes to come up and make big hits, but fast enough and agile enough to cover guys, too.”
Koley said he would welcome any opportunity at Nebraska, including special teams. Although it will take a climb defensively, both Matt O'Hanlon and Austin Cassidy have been former walk-ons to start at safety during the Bo Pelini era at NU.
Koley said he is “ahead of the game” in his rehab after having knee surgery on Dec. 19. He will find out later this week if he can start jumping, and he still hopes to run track this spring.
Some other notes among the Husker walk-ons:
» Lincoln North Star running back Austin Rose is the nephew of former Nebraska and NFL safety Mike Minter. Rose was limited by injury his senior year, but ran for 1,403 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2012.
» One of two out-of-state walk-ons is Dylan Owen, a defensive lineman from Westchester, N.Y. Owen spent the 2013 season at Bridgton Academy in Maine.
» Garrett Poppen follows Drew Ott out of Giltner, Neb., and into Big Ten football. The linebacker logged 124 tackles during his senior season and also was a two-time 1,000-yard rusher for Giltner. Ott signed with Iowa in 2012 and has played as a Hawkeye defensive end the past two seasons.
» Wahoo Neumann tight end Nate Meduna averaged nearly 25 yards per reception last season, when he caught 19 passes. The 6-5 220-pounder also had 22˝ tackles for losses on defense.
» Ashland-Greenwood fullback-linebacker Bo Kitrell follows his father to NU. Barry Kitrell played fullback for the Huskers, lettering in 1988. Bo Kitrell was a Class C-1 all-state player after recording 206 tackles as a senior.
» Kearney Catholic receiver Blake Holtmeier helped the Stars to 28 wins over the past three seasons and caught 28 passes for 543 yards and eight TDs as a senior.
» Omaha Gross defensive lineman Noah Arneson helped the Cougars to a Class B state championship in 2012. The 6-3 300-pounder was a Class B all-state pick last fall.
» Cozad went 13-0 and won the Class C-1 state championship last fall with help from linebacker Alex Boryca. The all-state pick had 115 tackles and five sacks as a senior.
* * *
Video: Husker coach Bo Pelini's signing day press conference: