Nouredin “Nouri” Nouili could have stayed on the other side of the world. He could have stuck with another type of football — the one we call soccer. He could have even gone pro as a goalkeeper.
Instead, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound German flew 5,000 miles to Firth, Nebraska, where he decided to keep playing football.
He’s happy he did.
Three years after his first organized game with the Hanau Hornets in Frankfurt, the senior lineman at Norris has received multiple scholarship offers. Yes, to play college football.
So how did Nouili wind up in Nebraska?
After he signed up for the foreign exchange program in Germany, then completed months worth of paperwork and interviews, he landed in the Philadelphia International Airport on July 23, 2018.
“I just wanted to go somewhere in the States, I didn’t care where,” Nouili said. “It could’ve been Florida or Minnesota, but I was placed in Nebraska. And it was completely random.
“The first time I talked to my host dad was in the Philadelphia airport because customs called him and asked where I was going.”
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Once at Norris, Nouili quickly realized there was a difference between football in Germany and the U.S.
“There is not a real technique in Germany,” he said. “If you played five years in Germany, everyone was impressed.”
Then there were the actual position coaches. And 12 linemen on each play (compared to the five or six).
“We had about 13 plays in Germany and practiced once or twice a week,” he said. “Here, we have about 60 plays, practice every week and everyone has played football their whole lives.”
There were adjustments off the field, too. Nouili said school is harder in Germany, but it took awhile to get acclimated.
“Here, everyday you have the same schedule,” he said. “The first few days were really hard. The structure and the time difference with the jet lag was hard.”
Nouili did find some comfort, though: “I am in love with the food here.” His favorite? Raising Canes. “The sauce is amazing.”
Driving, that’s another story.
Nouili said that’s the biggest difference between the countries. In Nebraska, his classmates are already driving. In Germany, you have to be 18.
“And everyone is driving big trucks here.”
Not to mention that everything here is just, well, big.
“Big department stores would be about 10 stores in Germany,” he said of the Walmarts, Targets and malls that are commonplace in Nebraska.
Yet, the German exchange student didn’t miss a beat on the football field.
With work in the weight room combined with his natural athleticism — he also played handball, tennis, volleyball and badminton — Nouili quickly became a starter for the Titans. He also owns 30-inch vertical leap, 37 ½-inch arms and 10 ½-inch hands. The lineman has no trouble dunking a basketball.
Colleges also began taking notice. Then after an invitation to a Nebraska game at Memorial Stadium, Nouili started to entertain the idea of playing college football.
His first scholarship offer came from Division II Emporia State. Northwest Missouri State then Fort Hays State followed, as well as a handful of NAIA schools.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “It is a huge deal for my family.”
Back in Frankfurt, Nouili lives with his mother, step-dad and two sisters. They miss him, but are happy for his success.
“They appreciate what everyone in Nebraska has done for me,” Nouili said, “and they are excited about what might happen for me in the future.”
Nebraska is interested in him as a preferred walk-on. Colorado State has offered a scholarship, along with FCS schools South Dakota State and Northern Iowa. North Dakota State has offered a partial scholarship.
He recently took official visits to SDSU and Colorado State. Nouili said most suitors like his versatility and are recruiting him at both defensive and offensive line. And with his soccer background, Nouili has told coaches he’s willing to do anything to help the team.
“I’d like to be a punter,” he said. “I can kick, I can throw and I can run. It would be fun to do some trick plays and hand the ball to some big guys.”
As for what he wants from a program, the dynamic is important.
“I want to have the family connection between players and coaches. I don’t want players to be seen as objects,” he said.
Nouili is also interested in doing community service work. And something else: “I am in love with pulling and in love with running someone over.”
He plans to make his college decision next week.
“I want to keep the options open,” Nouili said. “I will have my decision made by Sunday but not announce it until signing day.”