LINCOLN — In his years as Beatrice’s coach, Bob Sexton has seen a few elite football players roll through town. He’s sent two to the NFL. He’s sent his share up Highway 77 to the big state school, too.
So last fall, when tight end Cameron Jurgens was a freshman, Sexton had a pretty good idea the kid would be good. It’s a small town. You know which eighth-graders have a shot. Especially when they’re 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.
But the game is about more than size. Jurgens would have to make the transition to big-boy football. Though Sexton notes that Jurgens had a great senior mentor — South Dakota State linebacker signee Jessup Workman — he’ll add that Jurgens was pretty sharp, too, at linebacker or tight end.
“He’s a pretty mature kid,” Sexton said. “He just does what he’s supposed to do.”
As Nebraska learned recently when it offered a scholarship to the player about to enter his sophomore year.
True, it’s a new coaching staff in Lincoln. And true, Sexton said, Jurgens “dominated” just about every player he faced in the Huskers’ first Friday Night Lights camp. But this is rare stuff in Husker football.
It’ll happen occasionally in other sports. NU basketball coach Tim Miles offered Omaha South wing Aguek Arop the July before his sophomore year. Women’s basketball coach Connie Yori offered five-star freshman Jess Shepard before she entered high school. Nebraska volleyball twins Amber and Kadie Rolfzen beat Shepard by a few months, committing just after leaving middle school.
But football? Yes, football.
“It felt unreal getting offered when I’m this young,” Jurgens said. “It was mind-boggling. My dad said he was swept off his feet. It was awesome.”
Said Sexton: “I was ecstatic. And obviously a little surprised.”
Sexton’s surprise had hit a little earlier during the first week of camps.
Nebraska coaches had seen Jurgens at a day camp, and called Sexton to say they wanted to see Jurgens again at the Friday Night Lights event. Though the coaches had already told Jurgens the same thing, the call gave Sexton a hunch that something was up. So he went along with the family on that Friday night.
Sure enough, Jurgens did well at the event. Even with two highly touted wideouts from California at the camp, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and Brian Hightower, Jurgens might have put on the best show in one-on-one drills against linebackers. Catching the ball, Sexton said, is one of Jurgens’ most natural talents.
The next day at NU’s Big Red Weekend event, Jurgens received a scholarship offer. He returned to the Friday Night Lights event one week later — not to compete again, but to hang out with Nebraska’s football staff.
He camped at Kansas State, South Dakota State and Wyoming throughout June. Of that trio, only SDSU has offered a scholarship. Sexton didn’t think KSU or Wyoming would right away, because they generally don’t offer sophomores-to-be.
Neither does Nebraska — usually.
Mike Riley doesn’t appear to have made a habit of it at Oregon State, and it wasn’t standard practice for former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, either, though NU is listed as one of the teams that offered a scholarship several years ago to 2017 linebacker prospect Dylan Moses, who has long been committed to LSU.
Jurgens, who played YMCA and Beatrice Bombers football when he was younger, could be unique.
“I’ve always been one of the bigger, faster, strong kids in my grade,” Jurgens said. “I’ve been pretty blessed. When I was a little kid I was always on the line — because of the weight limit, you couldn’t touch the ball or run with it. And once middle school came I never played line again.”
He’s a gifted thrower in track, having won the Class B state discus title as a freshman and finished third in the shot put. He intends to stay at tight end and linebacker and work on adding size and strength. He squats 405 pounds now.
“I have room to put on muscle if I keep working hard in the weight room,” Jurgens said. “I’m going to keep running, too, and being the most athletic kid I can be.”
And when might Jurgens commit to Nebraska? Are there other schools pursuing him?
For now, he said, he wants to take the process slowly, do it right, and look around. But it’s fair to say the Huskers have a very good shot.
“I haven’t really cheered for anybody but Nebraska,” he said.
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