For Lincoln Southwest’s Nick Leader, walking on at Nebraska is a family affair.
Leader, a Class A honorable mention selection, is following the path his father took. David Leader walked on at Nebraska, then lettered in 1991 and 1992.
“(Playing at Nebraska) is something I’ve dreamed of ever since I was just a wee little kid playing Pee Wee football and stuff,” Leader said. “It’s amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Leader had scholarship offers from Division II schools Bemidji State, Missouri Western State and Sioux Falls, but Southwest coach Andrew Sherman wasn’t surprised that the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Leader chose to walk on for the Huskers.
“He’s worn a Nebraska jersey growing up, he’s seen that Tunnel Walk,” Sherman said. “And I think anybody that goes to those games on Saturday always dreams of running out of that tunnel with 80,000 diehards cheering you on.”
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From his father, Leader got a first-hand account of what is in store for him as a walk-on.
“He is a pretty short-spoken guy, but what he’s told me is that it’s going to be something you’re going to have to work your butt off every day and it’s going to become your life, but you’re going to love every minute of it,” Leader said. “Just put every bit of heart and soul you have into it and make the most of it.”
Playing outside linebacker and defensive end, Leader led the Silver Hawks with 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks this season. He was fourth on the team with 76 tackles.
Leader had his best game of the season in Southwest’s 21-7 win over Grand Island, which went on to reach the Class A final. He totaled 15 tackles, including six for loss, three sacks and recovered a fumble.
“Nick kind of single-handedly won that Grand Island game for us,” Sherman said. “They could not block him. That was such a huge win for our program.”
Leader broke his leg in the third quarter against the Islanders but refused to come out of the game. He not only finished that contest, but played in the final two games of the season.
“It hurt really bad, but it was pretty much one of those games you’re only going to experience once in a lifetime,” Leader said. “It’s the game you play for, the game we all want to play in. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”
Sherman said one of the reasons for Leader’s success was his work ethic.
“He’s earned everything that he’s gotten, all his accolades, all his tackles, all-conference, all-city, he’s earned all that stuff through hard work,” Sherman said. “A majority of kids across that state have big, old, lazy bones, where maybe a day a week or more than that they take a day off. Nick never has a day off.”
Sherman noted that will serve Leader well at Nebraska.
“A guy like him, with the work ethic that he has and the abilities that he already has, the sky’s going to be the limit for him,” Sherman said. “I definitely feel like he’s going to be a contributor.
“It might take a year or two or whatever. I just think the way he’s going to work, it’s going to be impossible to keep him off the field for four years, that’s for doggone sure.”