Junior defensive back Nate Gerry is one of three Nebraska Cornhuskers who will make an appearance in Chicago for Big Ten Media Days on Friday.
Voted a team captain in 2015, Gerry is embracing his leadership role this season.
Big Red Report recently sat down with the former South Dakota prep.
When Nebraska offered you, you said it was a dream school. But when offers started to pour in, how much consideration did you give to others?
“Not much. I think the only school I gave any attention to is Michigan State, because the running backs coach at the time, Brad Salem, he was the head coach of my brothers college. My dad is the athletic trainer there, so I had a pretty good bond with Salem. But, I really didn’t pay attention to the other schools.”
If Nebraska hadn’t offered, what would you have done?
“My high school team was pretty good. So the method was, if I found a school I liked, to get it out of the way. But if I wouldn’t have gotten offered by Nebraska, I would have likely waited it out a little more. I would have probably given it the whole season and taken officials in January.”
You were a state champion sprinter. Do you miss track?
“Yeah, I miss track. I miss more the meets then the practices. I miss winning with my team. We won three state championships - we were always pretty good. I just love going out and competing. I miss making the turn on that 200 meters, it’s something that I really miss.”
Josh Mitchell said last fall you aren’t as fast as you once were?
“I think it all depends. When I was in high school, I trained for track. Now I train differently. The furthest I would ever run is probably 55-yards now. (Hopefully) I think it’s a whole different training mode. I might not be able to hold 100 meter speed, but I think I can get out faster than I used to.”
I want to read something to you… ‘Nate Gerry is an interesting prospect, but one Nebraska fans will need to be patient with. He’s a couple years away from making a solid impact after playing high football in South Dakota. He’s going to need a few years to adjust to the speed of the game.’ – A well known recruiting national analyst
That wasn’t really a fair assessment of you coming out of high school, was it?
“I think being from South Dakota, we got looked past. I played with a lot of kids in South Dakota I know could have played at higher divisions. I just think being from the state; we don’t get the same opportunities. I kept that in the back of my head. My mom and my coaches would say, ‘if you want to do something, you have to just put your mind to it.’ Once Coach Bo (Pelini) told me the chances of playing my freshman year were up to me, I just kept remembering that. ‘I can do it.”
Were you miserable playing linebacker your freshman year?
“I wasn’t miserable. I love football. It was pretty tough on me. Being in Bo’s system and only a freshman, it was tough mentally. I was more rattled after moving from safety. But I told Coach when he asked me about the switch that I came here to do whatever I could for the team.”
Was it always in your mind that you would go back to safety?
“I talked to Coach (Terry) Joseph and he would say, you will be back in my room. So he was always keeping it in my mind. I understood, we were low depth wise at linebacker. Coach Joseph always would say, ‘I’m brining John Lynch back soon.’ He made a lot of hints.”
Do you have the year last year at safety, without the experience of playing linebacker?
“It made me a better safety. But I don’t know. If I would have played safety my freshman year, if it would have helped my development as well. It could have gone both ways.”
You are going into your third year and you have had two head coaches, three position coaches and two positions. Are you ready for things to settle?
“I’m really excited for it. It’s tough getting used to so much change. One of the things I was looking forward to going into spring ball was being one of the top dogs – where I didn’t have to study my playbook and stuff as maybe a freshman does. But, bringing in a new coach, I had to learn everything again and was on the same page as everyone else. I tried to be the first one to understand everything. People were looking at me and asking questions. I just tried to get a head start and putting up the extra work.”
Did you feel with everyone going back to an open slate, that there was almost a next man out mentality? Where if you didn’t get it, they would turn to a freshman?
“I would say so. You never know what these coaches are thinking. You never know what type of player they want on their defense. I just tried to sit back and catch the vibe of what Coach (Brian) Stewart and Coach (Mark) Banker wanted. I did feel that every position was up for grabs. It didn’t matter what age. When you look at corner, we have a lot of corners. It didn’t matter what age guys were. I do think everyone had to watch their back – including myself. A couple weeks into spring I started to get pretty comfortable. I think by late spring, you could see who had it or who knew more. That’s when guys started to look up to me – where I was a veteran again.”
You were named a team captain. Was that something you wanted? What does that mean to you?
“Yes, it was something I wanted. I believe that I’m the person for the job. I believe I can set the standard. I think that I have the ability to know my teammates like the back of my hand. I know each player and what drives them. I’m really excited to be a captain. I can help push people to the next level. I want more myself. If someone is going to set the standard, I want it to be me.”
I’m not a football genius by any means, but I look at the scheme and think to myself there is a lot more pressure on the safeties now. Is that true?
“I think that the safeties in this defense are the quarterback. I think that is the perfect position for me. I can be a leader out there and vocally I can set people right. On the field I can push people and I know what people need to get pushed to the next level and be great.”
Schematically, how different is the job of the safety than it was before?
“I would say it’s about the same. In Bo’s defense we had more keys. In this defense, it’s more, ‘if it’s run it’s run. If it’s pass it’s pass.’ With Bo we had to read keys from back to gap. The run concepts and fits are nearly the same. The gaps might change a little but, but the run responsibility is about the same.”
Talk about the relationship between you and Byerson Cockrell.
“I think we made great progress during the Iowa game. He was asked to step up and play safety. That was a tough spot for him, but it was probably one of the biggest games he played. I’m really glad that he’s going to be next to me in the fall. He’s a listener. He always wants to make people happy and is going to do whatever he needs to do to help the team. He puts the team first always. I think the chemistry is pretty good.”