Perfect weather, a perfectly maxed out crowd and droves of soon-to-be and could-be Huskers roaming around, all just enjoying the show.
It was a show that every recruit thus far says it was one to remember. That of course includes Ada, Oklahoma's, Craig Roark, probably one of the better linemen you are going to see this year. "The experience was unreal for me." Roark stated. "I got treated like I've never been treated before. They just treated me like I was really welcome."
"I've never seen anything like that before."
What Roark saw was what possible nobody has ever seen and that is over 60, 000 people for what is basically a scrimmage. Heck, it's hardly even that, the teams being matched so that Joe Dailey would never have to face the best defenders the Huskers had to offer.
Add to that the fact that the second half was basically in "real-time", the clock not even stopping for an injury to Grant Mulkey.
Don't expect that to take the luster off the experience though, for fans and especially for recruits, some still reeling at the thought of so many fans showing up for what is little more than a practice. "For fans to show up like that when it's basically a game within your team", Roark stated, "that's ridiculous."
Dramatic as the game itself was and as "ridiculous" as the crowd might have been, the experience Roark had couldn't be summarized what happened between start and finish of the annual Red/White event. His visit went well beyond just what was happening on the field. "They wanted me to come up early so I could get a personal tour." Roark said of what the coaches had communicated to him. "And, coach Wagner and coach Blake, the first time they ever met me, they just came out and gave me a big old hug. I thought that was really cool."
"Then, I went into a meeting with coach Callahan and he told me that I was the best offensive lineman that they had seen on film."
"And then, he gave me a hug and personally, I think that's pretty cool when they can do that."
Following the hugathon at Memorial, Craig stated that he and fellow recruits, Harrison Beck and Kyle Seevers went to a lunch with some of the current players, coaches and their families and the evening was culminated by a series of events that you had only heard about last year as players officially visited Nebraska, but I would say that typical to the kind of day it was, it was probably apt.
"After dinner, the director of football operations (Tim Cassidy) said he had something to show us." Roark stated. "And, down the middle aisle was a jersey that said Roark on it and had the number 66 on it. It had the helmet there, I tried on the jersey and that really made me feel at home."
If that wasn't enough, Roark and some fellow recruits also got to do the infamous "Tunnel Walk" after the game.
So, you can see that the red carpet was rolled out and then some for Roark and some other very special recruits. The thing is, just how much good did it do?
Was the crowd, the atmosphere, the game itself and the royal treatment afterwards enough to make this young man think any differently of Nebraska than before he tripped to Lincoln?
Cue the infamous words.
"If I had to commit right now, it would be to Nebraska." Roark stated. If it were right before signing day right now, that's where I would be going."
Lofty statements indeed and yes, I can almost see the latent splashes of drool hitting the screen from the Husker hardcores in attendance. Loftier statements as well considering that besides Nebraska, Roark has been offered by the likes of LSU, Ohio State, Kansas State, Missouri, Arizona, Alabama, USC and Kentucky.
That's not all of them, but you get the idea.
Wait. You see something or rather, don't see something there? Yes, the offer from the one and only Sooners. Growing up in Oklahoma, Roark has seen what the tradition of the Sooners is like. Similar in a lot of ways to growing up in Nebraska, he has been inundated with all that the Big XII powerhouse is, has been and is expected to be.
The belief as it has been, that will probably continue to be is once that offer from Oklahoma comes, it's not a matter of "if" he becomes a Sooner, but when.
Roark didn't agree.
"Let people say what they want." he said. "I'll make up my own mind as to what I want to do."
And, making up his mind is what everyone will be waiting for and considering the month we're in, it's going to be a long time coming. Roark stating that he might yet attend some camps of schools he's interested in, Craig also added that the process is something he plans on following as far as he thinks it should go. "I'm thinking right now if just taking my visits and all that, but if August rolls around I think I have found the school that I am one hundred percent sure on, I'll get it over with right there."
To that end, Roark said that with the Nebraska trip in perspective, he still has a very direct focus on what he is looking for in a school. Craig did go onto say while he was running his list down however, Nebraska is hitting on all cylinders. "My main things are tradition and Nebraska has that." he said. "They have the championships, Outland trophies and all that. Academics are big and they have the record for Academic All-Americans and coaches are important and they treated me better than I've ever been treated before."
"You know, that's definitely the school to beat." Roark continued. "It's going to be hard to top that because they have everything I want."
So, you are sitting there saying to yourself, "YES, HE'S A LOCK!".
And, I would say to you that this must be the first year you have followed recruiting.
There is no such thing as a lock, especially in April before their senior year and Roark would agree that he's still got a long journey ahead. "There's still so much out there that I haven't seen." he said. "Nebraska was great, but you don't know for sure if that's all you give yourself a chance to see."
"I won't go anywhere I am not totally sure of, so I'm going to look around just to make sure of where I want to go."
Those infamous words "If I had to commit now" are both good and bad for so many reasons. They are good for the staff at Nebraska, because that means they did what they wanted to do. They are good for Roark himself, because he's seen at least one school that fits his basic criteria for the school of the future.
It's April. Signing day was just a couple of months ago and ten more months into the future. Roark knows this, fans knows this, but if it's impressions you want, Nebraska made a good one on him. "It's football country." Roark said of Nebraska. "It's like here at Ada. We've won 19 state championships and football isn't all we think about, but it's a big part of it."
"That's another reason I like Nebraska."
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619