LINCOLN — Luke Reimer was surrounded by angry Buffaloes as he hung on as tightly as he could to the most valuable property at Folsom Field.
The Nebraska freshman walk-on linebacker had just recovered a Colorado fumble on a kickoff play, and though he never lost possession of the ball, several CU players lying on top of him tried to pry it loose. The pile took longer than usual to untangle, too.
“It felt like an arm workout after I got up from the pile,” Reimer said.
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Very few true freshmen have played on NU’s experienced defense, including a number of four-star prospects. Noa Pola-Gates, Ty Robinson and Jackson Hannah? Nope. Nick Henrich at inside linebacker was headed in that direction last spring, but a torn ACL has set back his timetable.
Only cornerback Quinton Newsome, outside linebacker Garrett Nelson and Reimer have appeared. Newsome is a long, fast athlete from the Atlanta area. Nelson is a scholarship player from Scottsbluff. Reimer is from Lincoln North Star. He turned down a scholarship at South Dakota State to play at Nebraska and now appears headed for burning his redshirt.
Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud called Reimer’s decision “lucky” for Nebraska, because Reimer is good.
“No. 1, a really good natural athlete, and No. 2, some guys just have a knack for finding the ball,” Ruud said. “Some guys, when they’re wrong, they end up in the right place.”
Reimer described the past three months on campus as “pretty hectic” as he worked in the weight room and impressed coaches in training camp, and then had to rehab a knee injury suffered right before coaches talked him up in the media.
“The first scrimmage, I just got rolled up on,” he said. “That was the big media day — people were freaking out about me making plays. I rehabbed like crazy for the next two weeks and got back to healthy.”
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Reimer could tell he was making a move in camp — ahead of scholarship recruits such as Hannah and Garrett Snodgrass — after coaches stopped correcting his play on film as often and he started making more plays.
“One of the first days of scrimmaging, I started making more plays and it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s just football,’ ” Reimer said. “I just kind of let it loose from there.”
Reimer’s next goal: earning a scholarship. He’s on the depth chart as a true freshman. Henrich, now back practicing, appears headed for a redshirt, as do Hannah and Snodgrass.
“That was my goal from the start: Always get on scholarship,” Reimer said. “But now it’s becoming more and more real to me.”
Ruud invoked a Husker great when trying to explain Reimer’s sixth sense for the game.
“I don’t want to compare Luke to Lavonte David too early, but Lavonte had that,” Ruud said. “He was a guy that came in and played real early and didn’t always know exactly where he was supposed to be. But he always ended up in the right spot. So some guys got a pretty good natural feel for just finding their way around the field.”