Ben Lingenfelter from Cherokee, Iowa, will be on the football team next season at Nebraska.
If there is something about the previous sentence that might not seem accurate to longtime Husker fans, it would be the part about being from Iowa.
But it’s true. Lingenfelter, whose family has been woven through generations into the Cornhusker State’s culture of football, farming and smalltown values, is indeed graduating from a high school in Iowa. And he came reasonably close to becoming a Hawkeye.
Which just wouldn’t seem right for those who follow football in Nebraska.
Lingenfelter, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound lineman, will walk on at NU after spending the last two years at Washington High in Cherokee, Iowa, where his mother, Kim, is now in her second year as superintendent of Cherokee Community Schools.
Previously, she was the superintendent at Neligh-Oakdale in Nebraska, where Ben got his start in high school athletics as a freshman and sophomore while his mom ran the school and his father, Burt, farmed land in three counties: Pierce, Knox and Antelope.
Previous to that, Ben was on track to play at Plainview, the northeast Nebraska community where just about every male in his family played high school football and later went on to bigger things in the sport — much bigger things in the case of uncle Bob.
Bob Lingenfelter was an All-Big Eight offensive tackle at Nebraska in 1976 and played three years in the NFL. One of Bob’s sons, Newton, walked on out of Plainview and later earned a scholarship, lettering as an offensive lineman in 2005. Bob’s younger brother, Bruce, never lettered, but Husker fans surely have seen him — or at least his likeness. According to family lore, Bruce, with a barbell bending with weight across his shoulders, was used as the image of Husker Power for years during the first Boyd Epley era. The image was recently returned prominently to the Husker weight room.
Another of Bob’s sons, Harrison, declined an opportunity to walk on at Nebraska and instead accepted a scholarship to UNO, where, as a 6-3, 300-pound offensive lineman, he became a two-time all-league player in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
And then there is father Burt, who starred in both football and basketball in the early ’80s at Plainview and played fullback at South Dakota State; and Ben’s older brother, Luke, who also played at Plainview and lettered as a Husker offensive lineman in 2011 after walking on and spending a good many of his Husker practices battling a guy named Ndamukong Suh.
So, Ben Lingenfelter has heard all the stories from generations of Huskers. He knows the culture. And he knows he will no longer be the biggest guy on the field.
“I remember when I was about 9 or 10 and I was in the weight room with Luke and Ndamukong Suh walked through. His arms were bigger around than my head,” Lingenfelter said.
His new position coach, John Parrella, had some pretty big arms, too. Lingenfelter said he is looking forward to being coached by Parrella as a defensive lineman, which will be a switch from the family’s proclivity toward the offensive line.
“Coach Parrella saw my film and he thought I could do some things on the defensive side, and I think he liked my body build for what they were trying to do,” Lingenfelter said.
Parrella will find a good pupil, as long as Lingenfelter follows older brother Luke’s advice.
“One of the biggest things is to make sure you do what your coaches say,” Lingenfelter said of his brother’s instructions. “Make sure you ask (coaches) questions so that you know what you are supposed to do.”
Lingenfelter, a 4.0 student, will be on an academic scholarship at NU. He was named to Class 2-A all-state teams by two of Iowa’s largest newspapers and was named district lineman of the year. He had scholarship offers from Tulane, South Dakota and Northern Iowa and walk-on opportunities at Stanford, Iowa State and Iowa.
Lingenfelter said he had a great visit to Iowa.
“It’s a really nice school and has great, brand new facilities,” he said. “And I really liked the coaches.”
What if he would have decided to walk on at Iowa?
“It would have been a little bit of a shock to everybody — my family and friends.”
Lingenfelter said it just feels right to be headed to Lincoln.
“I definitely would rather play for Nebraska coaches and Coach Parrella,” he said. “I still consider myself a Nebraskan. I grew up for 16 years there and spent time on our farms. Iowa has been great and I’ve enjoyed it. But Lincoln feels like home. I’m comfortable there.”
World-Herald sports editor Thad Livingston contributed to this report.