Small state makes big dreams come true

He's not the talker in the family. He'll politely defer to that to his older brother, who is competing in track for the Huskers as a freshman this year. But when it comes to walking on at Nebraska, there isn't a lot that needs to be said. It's a dream. It's been a dream. Now it's one that Mychael McClure will realize someday soon.

The phone call and subsequent visit by offensive line coach Barney Cotton was probably as unassuming and uneventful as life tends to be in a town of just over a thousand people.

It was a visit that coach Cotton has made numerous times over the last couple of months as he has gone almost door-to-door, talking to young man across the state, telling them that they were wanted as walk-ons to the University of Nebraska.

Growing nearby a town of similar size to Wisner, Nebraska, I can say from personal experience that there weren't many things which got a rise out of the low-key population.

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It's the one bond which ties seemingly the entire 1.7 million citizens of the state together, and for young kids growing up, it isn't just what they want to do, it's what they dream to be.

Mychael McClure is a proud member of that particular group. "Yeah, I have always wanted to go there and play football. You never know if it will happen, but when you start playing football, it just becomes something you think about," McClure said.

At 6-5, 210 lbs., Mychael has ideal size or perhaps, even better than ideal size, when projecting him to a variety of positions. For Wisner-Pilger, he was obviously a two-way guy and like every stellar athlete in a small town, there weren't many sports he didn't play.

Regarding football, McClure, admittedly anything but a stats kind of guy, recalled that he had "around" 750 yards receiving with nine touchdowns.

I don't know about you, but I hear 6-5, and think wide receiver in class C1 in Nebraska, I'm assuming there aren't a whole lot of players he sees guarding him, how can physically, come even close to matching up. "No, not many," McClure said with a chuckle. "One of our favorite things was a trick play we did, where the halfback would take the ball to the outside, step back and just toss a fade down the field. I liked those. They worked pretty good."

McClure said that he isn't sure if he'll be duplicating those exploits at Nebraska, because right now, he's not even sure which position they want him to play. They have talked defense, McClure likes offense (TE), but for him it is good either way. "If they want me to play it, I'll play it. I like tight end, but I will play whatever position they want me to play."

When Mychael joins the big red in the fall, he'll join his older brother, Kellen, who is a freshman at Nebraska, competing on the track & field team. Mychael said of his slightly older brother, he's the one who talks the most and the one who knows.

What does he know? According to the younger McClure, it's quite a bit, and one thing he's heard which you can imagine is a very pleasant surprise is that things are a little different in Lincoln nowadays. "I think my brother is more excited about me going there than I am, honestly. I know he said things are pretty good there right now," he said.

"I know that at least from looking at it from the outside, things look a lot more different. Coach Pelini – he's pretty old-school."

I used that term when I was a kid, or at least, somewhere around Mychael's age now. You'd think that over 20 years later, that might mean something different than it does now. Nope, not for McClure, when he talks about old-school, it's the same way I did when I was his age. "Coach Pelini just seems like a real honest type of guy and he's someone that will tell you things how they are," Mychael said. "Sometimes you have to get it straight. That means more than some coach who might not say something to spare your feelings.

"For me anyway, I don't mind being yelled out. Sometimes it's good to get you going. You need that sometimes."

We talked for a time, McClure recalling the last player from his town to go to Nebraska, a walk-on from memory, attending Nebraska a few years before Mychael was even before. He had to ask his mom exactly when that was.


That is a long time since anyone became a hometown Husker football player from Wisner. That makes what Mychael is doing kind of special – kind of unique. But even now McClure says that it's also kind of hard to think about actually being part of everything he used to watch and gape at in awe, during those crisp-weekends in the fall. "I don't think it's sunk it and probably won't until I get there. It's kind of hard to know what it will feel like to put on that uniform, the helmet and go out in that tunnel," he said. "When you are watching games from home or there, that's what you think about. But you are also just a big fan.

"As it is, I'll probably be in awe of the whole thing and won't really know what to say."

Because Nebraska has had so many walk-ons this year, perhaps more than they have had since Tom Osborne retired as the head coach after the 1997 season, you start to hear the same story.

It's about the dream. It's about doing what you always wanted to do and feeling that this place, like perhaps no time in recent memory, feels like the Nebraska you remember as a little kid and the one your parents talked about on-end.

Yeah, it's the same dream, but for every individual, there's always something a little different. For Mychael, especially now with the new head coach, He's going to realize his dream in absolutely the most ideal way. "He's an honest guy and I think he understands that Nebraska is about hard work and people just being honest," Mychael said. "That's what we respect, and there's nothing better than thinking about going to a place which is just like how you grow up, basically.

"I like talking to little kids about it, about what hard work can do for you and that if you want to do something, just do it. I'm kind of doing that with Nebraska. That's what I wanted to do. That's what I dreamed of doing.

"It's just going to be impossible to know how that will feel, though, until it happens."

We'll ask Mychael the same questions again, after it actually has.

We're guessing it will probably be better than even he thinks.

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