Blood is thicker than water, but when that water is the Missouri River, old loyalties can get stretched like so much Silly Putty. So some of the toughest calls Kade Warner had to make this week once he’d made his decision to join the Nebraska Cornhuskers weren’t to the coaches of the schools who’d courted him.
They were to family.
“I was telling my grandpa (Thursday), when I told him I’d committed, he was excited for me,” Warner told Land of 10. “I could tell he was a little — not resentment, but maybe, in his voice, he wished I was in some gold and black.”
Warner’s father, Kurt, the former NFL quarterback, is the first Iowa native elected as a player to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having been born in Burlington and raised in Eastern Iowa — the heart of Hawkeyes country.
But Kade, a 6-foot-2 wide receiver out of Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School and the all-time receptions leader in Arizona 11-man prep football history, announced late Thursday night that he’ll be enrolling at Nebraska, one of Iowa’s Big Ten west rivals, and walking on to the Cornhuskers’ football team.
— Kade Warner (@KadeWarner) February 17, 2017
The younger Warner also considered preferred walk-on offers from Arizona State, UCLA and Iowa and an FCS offer from the University of San Diego. Kade announced after a visit to Lincoln last weekend that the Huskers and Sun Devils were the final two schools in the running.
“I got a chance to talk to the academic coaches and go through the academic plans,” Warner said of his Nebraska junket. “Which was pretty incredible, how they don’t really give the student a chance to fail. And the facilities were some of the best facilities I’ve seen in all my travels. That was a big plus.
“And the coaches really seemed like they wanted me on the team. Everyone on the staff made me feel like I could be successful for four years and they all had my future (in mind).”
— Cameron Cox (@CamCox12) September 16, 2016
Family and familiarity — Nebraska graduate assistant Blair Tushaus coached at Desert Mountain in 2015 — helped to swing the decision, as well as fit. Warner said offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and wide receivers coach Keith Williams see him as a receiver, rather than an H-back type, and “more slot than outside.
“But I’ll (be) adaptive to change, and grow as a player. They just see me having a successful four years to evolve on the football field.”
Few give love on social media the way Huskers fans give love — but it was especially gratifying, Warner said, to find a direct message waiting on Twitter from Nebraska wideout Brandon Reilly, a 6-2 former walk-on himself who blossomed into one of the Big Ten’s better vertical threats.
“So it’s cool to know they’re all watching me,” said Warner, who caught 241 passes at Desert Mountain, including 83 as a senior, “and they want me to be successful.”
Freshman quarterback Tristan Gebbia, who enrolled in January, also made an impression, and a good one, when the two met up last weekend in Langsdorf’s office.
“We talked once or twice. We’re not best friends but we obviously know of each other,” Warner said. “He’s a very cool guy. I wouldn’t mind him being my quarterback the next couple years.”
Warner plans to enroll in summer school during June and get into the swing of things with Gebbia, and the rest of his teammates, from there.
Grandpa will forgive. Eventually.
“They’re really happy for me. They’re going to come watch me,” Warner said with a laugh when asked about the Hawkeyes in the family. “I’m not quite sure what colors they’re going to wear when they come watch me, but I know they’re going to come to Nebraska cheering for me as a person.”