Future Husker, Billy Graue

The status of "preferred walk-on" is a seemingly dubious title. To the common fan, it suggests that this is a player that is good, but not quite good enough to get a scholarship offer from the school. In the case of Fort Stockton, Texas' Bill Graue, however, he might be more than preferred, he could end up being a steal for the big red.

There's a lot of things missing your entire senior year of football will do to both your mentality as that player, but also to those schools that were looking at you as a possible player for their football team in the future.


That's the boat lineman Billy Graue was in as a torn ACL kept him out of playing his final season of prep-ball.


The sad thing is, were it not for a misdiagnosis from the team trainer, this more than likely wouldn't have been an issue at all.


"The trainer told me it was a sprained cartilage," Bill said. "I don't even know what that means, but this was back in like January, so I continued to work out and lift weights."


"I kept doing that until like June, but it never got any better and our coach had sent me to see a specialist and that's when they said I had torn my ACL."


The difference between June and January is huge, especially in regards to the rehab time for an injury such as this. It literally did mean the difference between taking the momentum of your junior year and enjoying your final season at that level.


Now, Billy has only memories and some bitterness towards that little episode, but his one bittersweet consolation is that his team, even without their biggest lineman made it farther into the post-season than it had in the last quarter of a century.


He's still ticked, though.


"I was easily the biggest lineman they had," Billy said. "I was like 6 foot, 3 inches tall and weighed around 290 and the next closest guy to me was like 6 foot, 2 inches and he weighed about 220."


Fort Stockton wasn't just losing size, but they were losing impressive ability as well. Against Greenwood high school, last year's runner-up state champs, Graue recorded 32 pancake blocks, all in three quarters of play. That's probably record there, if the school actually kept those particular records.


Unfortunately for Graue, a lineman that is obviously very formidable at the point of attack, he spent most of his time blocking for an offense that ran about as often as Nebraska threw the ball during the hay-day of the "option".


That's what Billy remembers of Nebraska and cherished even before tight end coach and recruiting coordinator Scott Downing had contacted him about the possibility of him being a preferred walk-on. From his mother's (Shelley) roots that are in Nebraska, Graue has had a long-time connection to the big red.


"I guess I started watching them in '97 or maybe before that, but I really didn't start thinking about actually playing college football until my sophomore year, so I just fell in love with them as a school," Billy said. "I guess around the time I went up there to visit, it was really down to them, Texas Tech and Harvard, Princeton and Yale."


"I had already cut out Texas A&M, Texas and Ohio State and eventually, it just got down to Texas Tech and Nebraska."


At one point, it seemed like Texas Tech could be the school for him, regardless of his mother's roots to the Cornhusker state. Or, as Shelley, a graduate of Tech, said herself, when she knew that Billy was going back to where she came from, she had to ask him more than a couple of times to make sure that's what he really wanted to do. "I just asked if he wanted to go up there, because it gets so cold," she said. "That was one of the reasons I left and now my son is going back, but that's what he wanted to do, so that's good enough for me."


 Good enough for her, but more than good enough for Billy and that is with only having experienced Nebraska from afar. The games, the atmosphere and most importantly, what he's heard about Lincoln on gamedays, he's been anticipating what it would be like far before he actually knew that it would one day be something he'd experience for himself.


"I talked to a few people about what it's like up there and this was after seeing a game at Texas A&M," Billy said. "They said that it's louder than this and I was like ‘no way'."


"I've even talked to others that said for walk-ons, it's worth it to go there just to be part of the tunnelwalk, even if it's only once. So, I can't wait to see and experience all that for myself."


Don't think that Billy looks at this as a gift, privilege or any such thing, because let's remember that before his senior season, it was pretty obvious he could play. He knows this, so when he steps on campus, it won't be with the mind-set that he's just happy to be there and whatever happens, happens.


Nope, Billy wants to play, even though he knows that he's probably got some catching up to do. "It's been so long since I have played, I don't know if I have that punch anymore," he said. "I'm sure I do, but I'll have to get up there, get the feel for what it's like physically and I'll know where I have to go from there."


Graue, now standing 6 foot, 3 and a half inches tall, weighing just over 300 pounds, is being projected as a center for the Huskers, a position that Graue knows very well. But, considering the fact that he was fifty pounds bigger than anyone else on the line at Fort Stockton, he knew every offensive line position there was.


That's another part of his versatility that he hopes will help him make the transition to division 1-A as comfortable as possible. "I've played every position on the line and had to deal with going from playing the "I" offense to the "spread"," he said. "So, learning new offenses isn't that hard and it will be nice to play just one position."


For this self-labeled worrier, Billy looks at the future as a Cornhusker as one he's eager to realize. The school itself and of course, the actual game that for some time, he's been unable to play.


The self-engrained angst aside, however, Graue looks at his status as a walk-on nothing more than a label, but one he hopes he'll shed one day, people looking at him as simply a solid member of the big red. "There's a lot of things I don't know about what is going to happen, but all I can do is whatever they tell me, so that I can get to where I need to be, physically and mentally."


"I'm excited about that, so I am just going to measure myself along the way, re-measure myself and become a good player."


"I'm definitely going to try and make something happen."


Graue is slated to arrive at Nebraska in August.

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