LINCOLN — Nebraska football’s top overall athlete just might be a redshirt freshman defensive lineman.
Khalil Davis, expected to contribute next season alongside side twin Carlos Davis, won the Husker Power Athlete of the Year Award after posting the top overall performance index score after NU players tested on Wednesday and Thursday.
The performance index, devised by assistant athletic director of strength and conditioning Boyd Epley, adjusts for height and weight and tries to gauge the overall athleticism and explosiveness of a given player. Khalil Davis, at 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, scored 1,790 points on the three tests and was the only defensive lineman in the top five scores. The others were quarterback Zack Darlington (1,740), linebacker Brad Simpson (1,738), tight end Luke McNitt (1,702) and offensive guard Tanner Farmer (1,667).
Those five then participated in one final test — the squat weight lift — to add additional points to the original three tests and determine a final winner. Davis came out on top there, as well, finishing with 2,370 points, followed by McNitt (2,250 points), Farmer and Darlington (both scored 2,223 points) and Simpson (2,218).
Thirteen players scored over 500 points on each of the three tests — 10-yard dash, vertical jump and pro agility run: quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong and Darlington; I-backs Devine Ozigbo and Austin Rose; linebackers Josh Banderas, Marcus Newby and Tanner Zlab; defensive ends A.J. Natter, Freedom Akinmoladun and Ross Dzuris; punter Sam Foltz; and tight ends Tyler Hoppes and McNitt.
In a December interview, Epley told reporters that a three-test score over 1,500 is a good starting point, while 1,800 points is where pro-ready athletes often score. Epley said in that same interview that he’d like to see Husker athletes come in around 1,500 and improve to around 2,100 as they progress through the program. Epley said NU’s football players weren’t as athletic as they used to be in the 1990s.
When Nebraska players tested in August, Epley said, three players scored in the 1,800s. Epley declined in December to say who those players were, although the top score, he said, belonged to a running back.
The highest score in the Nebraska athletic department appears to still be Husker softball player Kiki Stokes, who scored in the 1,900s before the softball season, Epley said. Stokes is off to a big start this year with a .540 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases in just 13 games.
Davis has long been a top, well-rounded athlete, swimming as a young boy and later excelling in track along with his twin brother. Davis competed on the Husker track team this spring in the weight throw and shot put.
Farmer, meanwhile, wrestled with the Huskers this season, competing in a few open meets. McNitt is the former quarterback from UNK. Simpson is a walk-on linebacker who played on special teams last year. Darlington was the No. 4 quarterback for the Huskers last season.
Epley, a pioneer in NU strength and conditioning, had long used the performance index as a gauge for all teams until he departed from the program in the 2000s. Upon his return under Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, Epley has brought back the index. Davis received a trophy with a weight plate on it for his performance.
For more on the performance index developed by Epley, check out Tom Shatel's column from December.
The Husker Power Twitter account posted the final results, which had the redshirt freshman defensive tackle on top:
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