Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. practically overflows with fans clad in Husker red. Over 90,000 people fill the bleachers, helping the stadium maintain its NCAA record-holding streak of consecutive sellouts. The marching band forms an L-shaped passageway, and the Huskers emerge from the north end zone’s tunnel, led by their coach, Bo Pelini.
Close behind Pelini is Sioux Falls native Nate Gerry, a true freshman starting as linebacker this season. Gerry is the son of Augustana’s head athletic trainer Brian Gerry (known to his students as B.G.) and the brother of Augustana senior Matt Gerry.
According to his family members, Nate’s position with the Huskers has already gained him a local fan following.
“I think the thing that’s really surprised me is how many Nebraska fans there are,” Brian said. “I get texts, phone calls, emails from people I don’t know. They’re congratulating me, saying they’ve become Nate fans. Scheel’s actually purchased a bunch of Nebraska’s shirts with his number on them, and they sold out really fast.”
Matt said he enjoys “being able to brag” to Husker fans that Nate Gerry is his younger brother. Looking back, he remembers noticing Nate’s prodigious talent during their childhood football games.
“With both of our parents working during the day, I’d be left to babysit Nate,” Matt said. “This meant that he would have to tag along with my friends and I. He was a tough kid, which was beneficial for us, because if we ever needed a player for tackle football, he could step in and fill that role very well for someone who was three years younger than us.”
Nate eventually helped his Washington High School teammates secure three state football championships and three state track championships, but his success as a Division-I athlete was not, according to his father, always guaranteed.
“Nate was always a smaller, shorter, stockier kid,” Brian said. “When he was a sophomore, he wasn’t a very big kid at all. Summer after his sophomore year, when he really started lifting weights, running and eating right, and when he hit his growth spurt, he became a big kid. And fast. And strong.”
Top athletic schools noticed Nate’s performance. He was recruited by several nationally-acclaimed football programs, including Michigan State, the University of Iowa and Arizona State. Ultimately, though, Nate chose to become a Husker for the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
“I think, in the back of his mind, he always felt that if Nebraska was serious about him, and if they offered him a scholarship, that’s where he’d go,” Brian said. “They invited him for a junior visit, he saw those facilities, and he really grasped into the family concept that Nebraska has. I think he just fell in love with it.”
After a summer of watching him practice with the team, coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator John Papuchis requested to meet with Nate during fall camp.
According to Brian, Nate was initially worried about the possibility of being redshirted for the season, but the meeting ultimately proved to be fortuitous. Pelini and Papuchis requested that Nate switch from safety to an outside linebacker position (the dime position). As a linebacker, they told him he might have an opportunity to start.
“It’s his speed that really sets him apart,” Brian said. “Compared to those other safeties and defensive backs, he actually excelled in speed and was just as good or better than the seniors that [the Huskers] had in those positions.”
Nate did not start in the season’s first game against Wyoming, but he was quickly brought in, helping to secure Nebraska’s first win of the season. He has since started in each following game.
“The best part for me about Nate being a Husker football player definitely is being able to see all of his hard work pay off,” Matt said. “They are treated like professionals [in Lincoln], and they are loved immensely. He loves his new team and the friends he’s made.”
Brian agrees that Nate’s success is welldeserved.
“He’s positioned himself to achieve this success. He’s done all the behind-the-scenes work, from the whole weight room deal to running track and doing these acceleration programs in town,” he said. “To see his picture on the JumboTron in the stadium and then to realize he’s playing in nationally televised games? It’s a proud moment. It really is.”