LINCOLN — All that Nathan Gerry remembers is that it happened so fast.
Running his first meet in his first season of high school track, Gerry lined up for the third heat of the 100-meter dash and just took off.
He ran a 10.58 that afternoon as a sophomore for Washington High in Sioux Falls, S.D. Not only was it the best time in his heat, but in all the others, as well.
Gerry knew he was fast, he just didn't know he was that fast.
“I didn't believe it,” Gerry said. “I went over and asked my coaches what they had (for a time).”
The fact that he has accepted a Nebraska football scholarship offer and will sign with the Huskers on Feb. 6 can partially be traced to that 2011 meet at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.
There was something special about Gerry. Not just the raw speed, but how he would learn how to use it.
And it maybe took that kind of niche to help NU find him — in a state not exactly known for producing major-college football players — before he started to do the rest as a safety, receiver, punter and kicker for the Warriors.
“Nate's worked hard to accomplish what he's done,” Washington football coach Brian Hermanson said. “He's made himself what he is. He's got some God-gifted abilities, but he took advantage of the opportunities out there for him.”
Gerry placed that spring in both the 200 (second) and 100 (fifth) at the state track meet, then won the 200 and was runner-up in the 100 last year as a junior. His bests of 10.39 in the 100 and 21.31 in the 200 are just off the state records of 10.37 and 21.1.
To be clear, the 6-foot-2, 218-pounder says: “I'm a football player that runs track,” and not the other way around. He's not crazy about track practices and not perfect with things like form, but loves the competition and values how it keeps him prepared for football.
The times, however, have been helpful in his pursuit of doing the one thing Gerry always wanted to do.
“I realize because I am from South Dakota it is a little harder, but I don't think people around the country realize the athletes and the players here,” he said. “The football's getting better. I do think it's maybe harder (to get recruited), but I never used that as an excuse. I just went out and did what I had to do. I wanted to play big-time football.”
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, Detroit Lions lineman Riley Reiff and Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri — all from South Dakota — are in the NFL. Ben Leber retired last summer after a 10-year pro career.
Gerry adds to Washington High's list of recruits with Football Bowl Subdivision programs that included offensive lineman Ryan Schuler with Nebraska 10 years ago, and more recently brothers Tom Farniok with Iowa State and Derek Farniok with Oklahoma.
Schuler encountered problems with blood clots and never played a down for the Huskers. Before he signed with NU, the program last signed a South Dakota prep player in 1997 with Mark Vedral.
Hermanson said South Dakota might be “starting to get on the map” — though it was one of five states last February to not have an FBS signee, according to Rivals.com — and something like Gerry going to Nebraska can help.
“At one time (the football) wasn't considered very good in our state, but it's gotten a lot better,” Hermanson said. “But we've had a lot of success at our school, and we've gotten some people to come through here. We've got like 12 kids playing I-AA right now. From Nate's class we'll have 11 kids playing college football somewhere.”
Gerry tops the list after leading Washington to a 12-0 season and state championship last fall, and helping the program to a 48-3 record and three titles since 2009. He concentrated on safety the last two seasons, though the Warriors also used the former receiver in some offensive packages.
Hermanson called Gerry a great tackler with size and a feel for the game. Then, obviously, there's the speed: His profile on recruiting sites lists his 40-yard dash at 4.42 seconds.
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Currently listed as an “athlete” on some sites, he likely is ticketed to start out at safety for the Huskers.
“There's a lot of things they can do with him,” Hermanson said. “He can play outside linebacker some day, maybe even play inside. You look at him and he's a really nice-looking athlete, but he can get bigger.
“He really made great improvement last year as a junior ... then this year he blew everybody out of the water.”
What he put on film followed what he put on paper, though. Along with the track times, Gerry thinks he also was helped by going to a combine last April in Lincoln, where he won the broad jump with a leap of 10 feet, 7 inches, posted a 35-inch vertical jump and did 22 reps of 185 pounds in the bench press.
Gerry at first had gotten limited attention during an NU visit the weekend of the 2012 spring game. But Husker assistant Barney Cotton was soon at a track practice to watch him in May, then back for another with NU secondary coach Terry Joseph.
Gerry previously had Iowa and Iowa State offers, but the one from Nebraska was then followed by several others. Gerry committed to the Huskers in June, and has the luxury of having family in both Omaha and Lincoln when he makes the trip down Interstate 29 next summer.
In track terms, it was more of a distance event than a sprint to get Gerry where he's at now.
Gerry was 5-9 and 148 pounds the first time Hermanson took his measurements as a freshman. He got himself into the weight room year-round and swapped baseball for track after his freshman year, even though he was a starting second baseman.
In addition to the weight training, Hermanson said Gerry works hard on acceleration and explosive drills, things that serve him well in both football and track.
Gerry could have graduated a semester early, arrived at Nebraska last week and right now be preparing for winter conditioning and spring practice. But those state-record times are too close for him to take off his track shoes just yet.
“That's why I came back instead of going early,” Gerry said. “That's what I want to do.”
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Nebraska loses O-line recruit to Michigan
LINCOLN — Nebraska lost one of its commitments less than four weeks from national signing day as offensive lineman Dan Samuelson announced Saturday he is now heading to Michigan.
Samuelson, according to 247Sports, becomes the 25th commitment for the Wolverines, and their sixth offensive lineman. Michigan's class is ranked No. 5 by Rivals.com and No. 6 by 247Sports.
Samuelson is a 6-5, 275-pounder from Plymouth, Ind.
Nebraska now has 19 recruits, including three offensive linemen — Zach Hannon, David Knevel and Gabriel Miller, who was recruited as a long-snapper.