Up to this point, the prospects had been looking pretty bleak for the California linebacker. Nebraska had apparently had their sights set on other linebackers to fill the void on the team. Joe was fully aware of this and from his conversations with recruiting coordinator, Scott Downing, he knew that if he was to ever have a chance at being a part of the program, other players were going to have to fall off.
Enter, Rory Johnson.
One of those prospects that was listed ahead of Mortensen from what he said, based on comments from Downing. After his official visit to Nebraska this last weekend, it was certainly Nebraska's hope that he would add his name to the big red roster come signing day.
That's not going to happen.
According to his family, Johnson verballed to Mississippi State last night, closing the door for NU, but if there is one person that is smiling after hearing of the pledge, it's one, Joe Moretensen. "That's exciting to hear about." Joe said. "It makes me think there is still hope and I called coach Downing this morning, but you can bet I am going to call him tomorrow to see what's going on."
I don't know about you, but for someone that hasn't covered Joe many times, I had to ask what fire this was that burned so deep in his belly about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. A California kid with so many great west coast teams to worship, why was it NU that got his attention to the point where that is the only place he wants to go? "After my visit there, that clinched it." Joe said. "All those sellouts for like the last forty years, it's amazing what kind of loyalty they have."
Joe's loyalty wasn't bound to a single visit however, his devotion spanning farther back and even recently only finding more momentum from his conversation with another that once dawned the uniform of the Huskers. "I grew up just loving the way they played football." Joe said. "I met Cory Schlesinger and he's like the best fullback in the NFL and he said that Nebraska was just a great place to be."
"He said it was all about the football program and you couldn't find anything like that anywhere else in the country. From everything I have seen everywhere else, he's right. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?"
If it's not obvious to you by now, Mortensen could probably go down as at least as big a Husker fan as most "true" Husker fans around. I would say he's without a doubt a Husker fan, but in our fifteen minute conversation, he didn't complain once and he didn't demand anyone get fired.
So, for Mortensen, it's back to his already well-publicized waiting-game. With the commit of Johnson to Miss. State, that makes his wait seem a little more worthwhile. Worthy enough that Joe said he's going to be persistent with NU's recruiting coordinator, at least to the point where he gets an answer one way or another. "I'm going to say ‘give it to me straight'." Joe said. "If they want me, great, I am there and I'll be happy to earn my way up the line-up. If not, ok, I'll be disappointed, but I'll move on."
By his offers, you would assume that moving on would mean either Colorado State or San Jose State, two schools that have offered Moretensen in writing. Joe stated that he will have two choices ahead of him, but neither choice will be the CSU Rams or the SJS Spartans. "I'm either going to get an offer and go to Nebraska or I am going to walk-on at USC." Mortensen stated. "They (the USC coaches) said they are looking for backers with my size, but have filled up at that position for scholarships."
"If Nebraska doesn't want me, I'll go there and earn my way into a scholarship."
It's fairly cut and dry with Joe, as you can see. He's either going to be offered by the Big Red and plan his eventual trip to Lincoln or, he's staying closer to home, walking on at one of the most prestigious programs in that region of the country. Not bad either way, but you don't have to ask Joe twice what he would rather have given the choice.
"I want to be a Husker." he said. "Since I was a kid, I've imagined myself playing for them and hopefully, that's where I will be."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619