There's no place like home

Every recruit wants to feel like their college of choice is like a home away from home. It's not often, though, that you can get that over a thousand miles away. Husker commit Shawn Bodtman felt that, and it may be early, but when he did pull the trigger for Nebraska, it weas something that felt more right than he ever thought it could.

(Friday afternoon) BRR: Coach, do you think I could talk to him (Shawn Bodtman) tonight, or does he have a basketball game or something else going on?

Coach DeAntona: Oh, no basketball for him. Shawn's a football player, up and down.

As simple the description of someone who approaches life in a blue collar way, coach DeAntona found it just as simple to talk about Husker commit Shawn Bodtman as it related to football. Actually, and you read it yourself, it doesn't have to relate to football.

Football is it

Sure, there are inevitable and enjoyable social aspects of being a kid in high school. And yes, the carefree mentality is in full gear as kids don't even think about the next hour, much less the next week.

For Bodtman, when he pulled the trigger for Nebraska, he was obviously thinking a lot farther down the road than that. And considering he's in Pennsylvania, the fact that he's a future Husker surprises many, floors some and one has to wonder if he's a Husker to stay.

It's not that we don't believe Bodtman. We do, in fact. But many things change between now and signing day come February of next year. However, for one of the very reasons this Scranton, Pennsylvania-prep chose Nebraska is why he won't be choosing anyone else.

"I'm down-to-earth and when I was looking at these schools, I was hoping to find people like that," Bodtman said. "The community around here is just a lot of people with close ties to one another, and that's what I was hoping to feel when I visited Nebraska."

Hoping and realizing are often two different things, especially when you are measuring expectations about a Midwestern school based on things you learned about from people who have lived their entire life on the east coast. It's not that they wouldn't be honest, but maybe they had a skewed perspective or maybe they haven't picked up a geography book in a while. "Some people were telling me that it was nothing but farmland, and I guess I was kind of expecting that when I visited there, but I knew that it wasn't going to all be like that," he said.

"I got there and it was kind of like I expected. But there were a few things that surprised me."

Bodtman fancies himself just a regular schmoe with regular ideals and he's one of those types who sees what he wants and no matter what you say, he's going to keep going until he gets it. That's good, because at just around 5-11, maybe not quite that much, when projecting Bodtman as a linebacker, most didn't project him at all. Shawn did get the offer from Nebraska, of course, and Syracuse and Army had offered as well. But no Pitt, no Penn State and even Bodtman himself admitted that he thinks coaches got wrapped up in what was on the paper and not what was inside.

"I'd say a lot of schools were just looking at me and thinking that if I were maybe three inches taller, I would have an offer. I just wasn't as tall as they wanted," he said. "But I play like I am 6-2, and I have seen plenty of guys who are 6-2, who don't play the way we do here in Scranton."

Talking to Bodtman and his teammate, offensive lineman Eric Shrive, who now boasts over 30 offers, this Scranton, Pennsylvania mind-set seems to come with a very entrenched sense of pride. It's the lunch-pail mantra, the blue collar attitude and the idea that you will only get as far as you are willing to take yourself. And each will be damned before they let anyone tell them what they can and cannot do.

"Well, I am like that, because I have had people tell me I couldn't, because I wasn't tall enough, even though I have always been motivated without that kind of stuff. But it's just the way this entire team is. When you cross that white line, it's no-holds barred. We aren't letting up on anyone," he said.

The 12-2 record from last year is proof positive of that, and with Bodtman and Shrive just part of what should be another stellar team, expectations for the team wont' diminish.

Back to Nebraska, though, while Shawn said he didn't have expectations, he did have hopes, which he has already alluded to a bit. The surprising part for him is on his visit, which came during the weekend of the sold-out Red & White game, was see just how much this town and community 1,200 miles away, was just like the place he just left. "I was really surprised at just how comfortable I felt. And it didn't take long either," he said. "Everyone was so down-to-earth, the coaches were all really nice people and the fans were great."

The visit was so comfortable Bodtman didn't have to ask himself anyone if he thought he could play there or felt like he would be happy there for the next four to five years. He knew it, up and down, inside and out.

He wanted to be a Husker.

For fans who see his listed height, perhaps caught up themselves in the measurable some positions are supposed to have, Bodtman might tell them what linebacker coach Mike Ekeler told Shawn when he said that he could see the Pennsylvania native doing great things with the big red. "Coach Ekeler said they had an outside linebacker at LSU who was about the same size as me, and was a real weapon for them," Bodtman said of the defending national champion Tigers, who as of right now, out of the 11 linebackers listed on their roster, over half (6) of them are 6-1 or below and one (Sr, Zach Midulla) is 5-11.

Ekeler didn't have to say a word about that, though, as if to perhaps try and prop up a young man a little, just in case he had gotten down a bit over the stereotype that he couldn't play at the next level. "It was great what he said, but I am playing my last year in high school like I have played all the others and like I plan to play at Nebraska - motor always going, busting my hump to be the best I can be and doing anything the coaches want me to do," he said. "That's nothing I am doing that is any different than what I have done. That's just who I am."

His teammate would agree. "He works hard and he's a good guy. I'm really happy that he found a place he really seems to like," Eric Shrive said. "I know I would have visited with him during their Spring game, but I had other obligations."

Shrive may not have made it that time, but Shawn is determined that his teammate, ranked as one of the top five offensive linemen in the country, gets to Lincoln sooner rather than later. "I told him everything about the visit and the coaches, and he's like me in the kind of coaches he likes, because that's just how we are around here," he said. "Honest, down-to-earth coaches and I know he'll see in them what I saw.

"He's got a lot of choices, and I know this is probably going to take a while before he makes a decision. But I will be bringing up Nebraska now and again."

Being the kind of salty sort he is at times, Shawn was thinking of taking down the 6-7, 300 pound tackle and forcing him to join the big red. But then he thought there are better ways to achieve the same result, without the potential pain. "He'd probably step on me," Bodtman said of Shrive with a laugh.

This isn't about him, though. As much as Shawn says he wants the all-everything lineman to go to Nebraska, this is about his own future, which he now sees over a thousand miles to the west. Sure, it was a surprise, but he's learned that sometimes those are a good thing. A little flashback to a conversation I had with West Scranton High School football head coach Mike DeAntona:

As to just how solid he is, seeing as how there is this other school in the state, sporting blue and white and boasting a rich tradition all their own, Shawn said that whatever happens with anyone else in the future he can't control. But he's not thinking about greener pastures closer to home. He thinks he's found that somewhere else. "The way I see it, Nebraska is the best place for me and offers me the best opportunities to become a better player and get a good education," he said. "I honestly don't see anything that anyone else could offer, they don't have.

"When I made the decision, it was like this huge weight just came off my shoulders. I think that's for a reason. Now I can concentrate on my final season and think about being a Husker.

"I can't wait."

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