From his home in Michigan to Wisconsin. From Wisconsin to Purdue. From Purdue to Nebraska. Not a bad trip if you are just taking in the sites, but if you are talking about these places as schools that you have decided to go to and then, ultimately decide against, that's a journey longer than most would want to take. Chris Patrick did finally end up with Nebraska throughout a process of not just school searching but soul searching as well. It was the place he finally felt he should be. "My mom is from South Dakota, so most of your family can come to the games and my Uncle, he's a huge Nebraska fan." Chris said. "He's probably the best recruiter they have." Patrick stated jokingly.
Many people are going to make a lot (at least, initially) of this back and forth that Chris has gone through over the recruiting season. One school to the next and then, to the next. After all is said and done, when you have seen so much of the other two schools in question, there had to be something else to choosing the Huskers in the end. "I like the tradition they have." Chris said. "You look at guys like Chris Kelsay and some of the guys they have put out (at rush end), it's awesome."
"The coaches told me that I have a frame similar to them and they had some success. A lot of those guys are in the pros now."
You could assume that this wasn't the only reason, as changes so dramatic do not often stem from simple reasons like tradition at the position. As Chris's father stated, it was more, much more. "At Nebraska, we just felt something that we didn't feel at the other schools." Phillip Patrick said. "Coach Solich just exhibited great leadership in what he was doing and his integrity. If you compare him to all of those coaches that we met, there was no comparison as to what he was, what he projected and the honor he projected."
"Some schools consider each kid as an asset to be obtained for their use, but going back to Tom Osborne and the tradition that they built, Nebraska wants these kids to do well, so I know he's going where he is going to be happy."
Chris and family may have not wanted to be dealt with in such stringent terms applying to assets and liabilities, but knowing that NU felt he was going to be not just a great person, but a great addition to their team certainly didn't hurt.
And, that wasn't the only reason that Nebraska ended up being the place for Chris as he saw what many other recruits have seen of NU in recent weeks. The broad sweeping changes in coaching positions at Nebraska have brought new faces in and have made even existing players, new faces once again. It's that newness, that unfamiliarity with the system that each player will once again go through that has some recruits thinking that the playing field for them as an in-coming freshman has just become a bit more level. "Everybody is going to be new." Chris said. "Everyone is going to learn what's going on together and I like that."
Chris will be the first to admit that from great rush ends usually there is great coaching, at least partially, responsible. What Patrick says he brings to the table though is a versatility to get up-field in a variety of ways. "I'm quick off the line." Chris said. "In high school, I could bull rush and I had a good swim move. I can get around guys, because I have good straight-line speed."
One thing Chris does acknowledge though, regardless of his potential is that what he did in high school doesn't always translate that well when going to the elite division of college football. "Most defensive linemen physically, they aren't like D-backs or wide receivers." Chris said. "They can't step into the position, because physically, most of the time they aren't ready. It's different for those guys."
"One I gain strength and put weight on, I know I can contribute, so I see myself redshirting."
As Chris said before in regards to what coaches told him, he does have the frame to build on. At 6'5" and right around 230 lbs., there's plenty of room to develop. And, that's where he is right now. In a lot of cases, he still has some room to go. "I am hoping to put on about 20 lbs. my first year." Chris said. "But, if I keep growing, I don't know, maybe I can level out at about 260."
Aside from his body, Chris already has in his mind just some of what he's going to need to succeed at Nebraska and part of it stems from a reputation that rush ends at Nebraska are known for. "You always have to have your motor running." Patrick stated. "Rush ends like Chris Kelsay, until the play stops, he is just running his butt off."
"The coaches talked to me about reeling guys in, in pursuit and you have to do that. You can't stop."
There's also another attribute to great players, especially on the defensive side and that's attitude. The old cliche' is that it's a "defensive player's mentality" and that's accurate, but some have their own way of going about that. Chris is, shall we say, direct and to the point. "As a defensive end, you just have to want to go and knock the damn quarterback's head off." Chris said. "You have to go out there and think that you are the best damn son of a bitch on the field."
Ok, defensive player's attitude? CHECK
There's a realistic side to this mentality as well for Patrick as he knows that what he faced in high school won't be what he will face in Division 1-A and also in what is a notoriously physical conference like the Big XII is. He's still got that attitude though. "In high school, you can get away with just playing on sheer talent." Chris said. "But, in college, the linemen are 300 and up, are strong, have long arms and are quick off the ball, so you just have to do that much more to get better and the entire time, just work your ass off."
Chris's journey has taken him a lot more places, both physically and mentally than most recruits have to deal with. On the surface, it would appear that he's playing games or that he simply didn't know what he wanted. It's easy to put that label on him now, but Chris isn't worried about image, he's worried about where he wants to be and ultimately, finally, in Nebraska he found just that place. In the end, as it always does, it doesn't matter what fans think, the media thinks or what other coaches think, it's a matter of what that recruit thinks will be the best fit for him overall.
And , perhaps opposite to another old cliche', it's not the journey, but the ultimate destination.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org