From Oregon to Lincoln, Nebraska, that's half a country in miles and a dramatic change in the kind of landscape which someone from the west coast might see when traveling to the middle of the U.S. Star defensive end prospect Owamagbe Odighizuwa heard plenty before his trip about what he might see.
That didn't quite match up with the real thing.
"Honestly, I was expecting the worst. I heard a lot about there and how it's kind of in the middle of nowhere and that the weather is bad," "Owa" said. "It wasn't anything like what I was told."
Some recruits are surprised they even see an actual town based on the information some people disseminate about the capital city of the Cornhusker state. Some think that they are going to have to get off the plane and ride a cow to the campus. Owa didn't think it would be that extreme, but the picture didn't quite have the same feel as the messages about that picture he'd grown used to hearing.
But one thing that did match up with much of what he heard, was the "Sea of Red." The Husker fan base, annually considered one of the best or at least, most loyal, in all of college football. Odighizuwa had, had some notion of it, but he said the experience in Lincoln as Nebraska hosted Kansas State, surpassed any expectations he had.
"I liked the coaching staff a lot. I liked the support that the whole town gives the football players, and just the academics and everything," he said. "But as far as what stood out on the visit was the fans. They are just amazing."
What is even more amazing is that his name, which is difficult to pronounce if you have never done so before, was something those same Husker fans could roll of their tongue with surprising efficiency. "Yeah, I remember that it was a lot of people who pronounced it right the first time. I was pretty impressed," he said.
With the initial shock over and done, Owa got down to the gritty of the visit, which, of course, was to figure out how this school stacked up with other schools he's considering, the list a who's who of college football:
That probably doesn't paint a positive picture for Husker fans, despite the fact that Nebraska has once again seen an improved season under second-year Head Coach, Bo Pelini. But Nebraska does indeed have something that those other programs don't.
From a phone call earlier in the year which was more or less a superficial conversation as the two Oregon natives talked about the Huskers and, of course, Suh, and just how he became the most dominant defensive tackle in the country.
Owa continued that conversation in person, and what he got from the almost guaranteed All-American wasn't a slogan about why he should go to Nebraska, but why Suh himself got as much out of it as he did. "I think a lot of what Suh has done over the last couple of years is because of those coaches there now. They obviously play great defense, and they know how to get the most out of the players they have," he said. "I mean, he was OK his first couple of years, but look at him now. He's just blown up the last two seasons. It's kind of ridiculous. The coaches have coached him and really prepared him right."
Another thing Owa got from Suh is probably not what you might think. Well, actually, you wouldn't if you didn't know as much about Suh's overall demeanor.
That is to say, he's no cheerleader. He's not the rah-rah type who is going to answer all your questions, concluding each of them with some slogan as to why Nebraska is the best place for you.
"He told me to take all my visits. He said that I need to take my visits, ask the right questions and make sure you get everything out of your visit that you can," he said.
And another thing struck home, particularly.
"He said to stay humble. No matter how much success you've had or might have, stay humble. No matter how good everyone says you are, just stay humble and just do your thing," Owa said.
There was, of course, a game which was played, a night-game affair as the Huskers closed out their regular season at home against Kansas State. In what has become sort of the norm for the Big Red, the defense led the way while the offense simply had to be serviceable. It worked, as it has most of this season, the Huskers beating the Wildcats, 17-3. Not a scintillating score by most fans who fancy scores in the 40s, but for a defensive guy it was just fine.
"I thought the game was good. It was a really good game," he said. "I liked how much they attack and just how relentless they played. They played really well - fundamentally sound, great technique and really fast."
He knows where that comes from.
Nebraska has shown itself to have a quality staff from top to bottom. But with the Head Coach whose roots are deep in defense, you had to think that's where Nebraska's strength might lie. The season has certainly shown that to be the case, and you won't hear any complaints from Owa. "Just his reputation - I know he's a good defensive coach. He was a great defensive coordinator at LSU," he said. "He knows his stuff. He kind of runs the defense. Most coaches you see run the offense, but he runs the defense."
With the experience now in the rearview mirror, Owa said that his thoughts coming in and coming out are entirely different. No, he's not happy he didn't have to ride a cow to the stadium. But when you hear all this stuff being said, you just want to get there and match up what you know with what some say.
Odighizuwa came out the other side of the visit impressed. "I guess from one to 10, I'd give it a nine," he said. "There wasn't really anything wrong with the visit, but I guess for me, if it's a perfect 10, 20 or whatever, it would be a visit where I felt like I just needed to commit there on the spot – you know, just one of those visits where everything was perfect."
Florida is his next visit, followed by USC. Owa will trip down to Gainesville to see the Gators take on their rival, Florida State. Then it's back to the west coast to finish up his round of officials with a trip down south to see the Trojans.
Then, it's a waiting game.
Not necessarily for his decision, but more than likely for anyone to actually know what decision he ultimately made. "Hopefully, I am going to announce at the U.S. Army Game," Owa said of the annual prep all-star contest in San Antonio, Texas which will take place on January 9th.
As is often the case for players announcing at these all-star games, there are a number of hats which they have in front of them, one of which gets chosen and thrown on the head to indicate their choice for the future. It's not common you see a bunch of hats, say four or five. It seems two or three seems to be a fairly common number.
Did Nebraska do enough to have a hat there when that day comes?
"Definitely. They will be in my final three or four at the end. Definitely," he said.