Pelini/Osborne tour: Omaha Central

The Nebraska tour didn't last long before the Husker Coaches had to head out of state and talk to the commits around the country, before the dead period arrived the 17th this month. But you can't get out of the state before stopping by this year's Class A State Champs. And yeah, they are good team, but Coaches Pelini and Osborne had a few individuals in mind as well.

With Bo Pelini and Tom Osborne hitting the road, you could almost rationalize a police escort, at least until they get out of state. Omaha Central Head football Coach Jay Ball was kind of thinking the same thing. When he knew T.O. and the new Husker Head Coach were coming to school, he tried to keep it as quiet as he could.

"I tried to not let too many people know, because with those guys in our building, it's kind of like rock stars walking through," Ball said. "Of course, that only worked so well, because once they were here, it created a bit of a stir."

That's the inevitable part, but eventually the pleasantries and surprise had to give way to the reason why the former Head Coach along with the current one, stopped by in the first place. Even Ball himself knew that as much as he would have liked to have visited them for hours, that wasn't going to happen on this day. "I didn't get a chance to talk to them a lot, personally, but they weren't there to talk to me anyway. They were there to talk to our kids," Ball said of seniors Shaun and Shane Prater along with fellow senior Ronnell Grixby. "But I talked to them about our kids a little bit, and, of course, they are really interested in three.

All three players were instrumental parts in taking Omaha Central to the state championship this year:

Ronnell Grixby had 1,301 yards on 204 carries, scoring 18 times. He added 315 yards off of 21 receptions and another touchdown.

Shane Prater was the main force at the receivers' position, scoring 10 touchdowns off the passing game, totaling 632 yards on 32 catches. Shane also had 46 tackles on defense, 30 of them solo, along with one interception on the year.

Shaun Prater was perhaps Central's most lethal two-way player, scoring on two of his 10 catches on the season, totaling 207 yards. But on defense is where he really made his presence known, pulling down five interceptions while totaling 83 tackles on the season, 66 of those solo, and he had two fumble recoveries as well.

"We talked about them and then they informed me a little bit about what they were going to talk to the kids about. The kids came in and they just talked," Ball said.

That's something, at least to Ball, who has been at Central for two years now. It's something, because when Osborne and Pelini entered the room, he felt something he hadn't felt before. It was just this feeling that Ball said had a lot to do with the love the state had for the program, but now more than perhaps in the last five years, it was the love the program was starting to show the state.

"I have only been at Central for two years, but all I can say is that in that two years the relationship between Central and the University of Nebraska has been very fractured. You can read into that whatever you like," he said. "It was pretty apparent that when Coach Osborne took over as interim A.D. and Coach Pelini was hired, they were going to get back to the roots and foundations of Nebraska .

"Central High along with the state of Nebraska in general, has been the foundation of that program. And if you are going to run it the right way, it is going to be the foundation for the University."

The list is long if you are trying to figure out all the former Huskers who once called Omaha Central home. Soon to be former Husker Cortney Grixby has started for the Huskers the last three years at cornerback. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman D. J. Jones contributed this year at right tackle. Then there are too many former Huskers to list from Central, but if you say "Ahman Green", nothing more really needs to be said.

Point is, long have the Huskers benefited from that school along with so many schools around the state, which might go a little more unsung. But for Ball, he can only identify with how he perceived Central to be looked at by the staff which preceded the one before this.

His perception said that to the former group of coaches Central really didn't mean that much.

"With the previous group, we didn't feel like all the players were given a fair look," Ball said. "The best example I can use is Shaun Prater. Here's a kid who is an extremely aggressive football player and he runs a 21.5 in the 200 at the state track meet, and we didn't hear a word from them.

"But you know what? Iowa knew about him right away. Iowa was actually on Shaun before he even ran that at the meet. And Ohio was the first to offer him. And then Iowa , of course, was three days behind that."

Nothing from Nebraska , though, and outside of an offer they had extended to Grixby September first of his junior year, that's about the brunt of the attention this Class A traditional power has received. And even THAT attention didn't last long, and to this day Ball still says he doesn't know why.

"Ronnell got an offer September first of his junior year. And last January, I got a call from Coach (Dennis)Wagner and he said they wanted to pull the offer," Ball said. "They really didn't give me a reason as to why, but to be quite honest, I think a lot of it was innuendo and rumors. Again, I don't think they did their homework very well and they listened to others about him and didn't talk to me.

"I guess that's how it goes."

As to this new staff, Grixby got his offer again, but according to Ball, it was a little different this time around. "I think they call it kind of a greyshirt, where you come in and that second year, you are on scholarship," he said.

Osborne and Pelini also extended an offer, this one a full ride, to Shaun who is currently committed to the University of Iowa . The offer obviously comes as a point of pride for any young man, but this one may have come just a bit late. "Well, Shaun is obviously committed to Iowa and I would categorize that as a solid commit right now," Ball said. "And he and his brother (Shane) are going there this weekend. I figure after that, it will only get stronger."

Now Coach Ball said that in the future, because of who is at Nebraska and the way he expects the future to be, he'd love to see every kid of his become a future member of the big red. He doesn't feel badly for Shaun, though, because in that state just to the east, even within all that yellow and black, he sees a little red in there, too.

"It's a great program and those coaches are class people. I have had an opportunity to develop a relationship with Coach Ferentz and Reece Morgan, who recruits the Omaha area for them," he said. "As I have gotten to know them, they remind me of the old Nebraska staff with Coach Osborne and Coach Tenopir. Just good down to earth solid people, who just want to work hard and make sure the kids get a good education."

The Praters and Grixby aren't the first standouts this football team has had and they certainly won't be the last. Coming off a state title this season, you can probably expect a lot more super prep-type talent from the Eagles.

The second-year Head Coach doesn't worry about that, and for the first time in awhile, he isn't worried about Nebraska either. He knows that now the entire program is in pretty good hands.

"I think Tom and Bo being there, along with the other coaches they have, really relights that fire for Nebraska ," he said. "It's a very positive thing for the state. The only negative might be the Division II or 1-AA programs were actually kind of enjoying Nebraska , because they were able to come into the state and steal some kids.

"Now, they are probably not going to get those kids, because once again, most of them will want to chase that dream of being a Husker."


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