They met at the Minneapolis airport in December during a layover on their way to Lincoln, Neb., for their official visits with the Nebraska football team. Then Cam’ron Jones boarded the aircraft with Tate Wildeman one row behind him.
The conversation on that flight and their trip to Nebraska’s campus were followed by texts, phone calls and FaceTime sessions as Wildeman tried to convince Jones to join him in Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class. In the process, the building blocks for a friendship were developing.
Jones, from Mansfield, Texas, committed to the Huskers on Jan. 27. Wildeman, who is from Parker, Colo., had been pledged to Nebraska since April 2017, but he took his official visit under the new coaching staff while considering his options after the firing of former coach Mike Riley. Both are 4-star prospects, with Jones a safety and Wildeman set to play defensive line.
Having not met most of the new coaching staff, Wildeman couldn’t tell Jones much about them. But he did offer a preview of Nebraska’s facilities, which still exceeded Jones’ expectations.
The official visit reaffirmed to Wildeman that Nebraska was the place for him. But after he signed with the Huskers during the early signing period, he focused his attention on Jones.
“After that, I just kind of recruited him as hard as I could,” Wildeman said. “I knew we needed a safety to fill the shoes.”
The prospects’ hosts during the visit were friends, Wildeman said, so they hung out together the majority of the first night on campus. That relationship blossomed during the weekend and the two left on exceptional terms, despite just knowing each other for 48 hours.
“Me and [Wildeman] clicked right away,” Jones said.
Wildeman said there is plenty to like about Jones, on and off the field.
“I love the energy he brings on the football field,” Wildeman said. “That’s what we need.
“Personality-wise, just a great, genuine guy who’s very competitive and just wants to win.”
Wildeman knew all of that after one weekend. He then went into recruiter mode. Jones said he was always keeping in touch.
“Oh man, Tate FaceTimed me all week,” Jones said. “Bothering me — ‘Is it still Nebraska? Is it still Nebraska?’ He stayed in my ear.
“He played a good role in it, just reminding me where home was.”
Nebraska’s coaching staff allowed Jones to take his time with his decision. That was a big factor in swaying him to the Huskers. Wildeman utilized a similar tactic with Jones, which also helped.
“I’d say the biggest thing was just [telling] him to stay patient and explore all your options,” Wildeman said. “If you still love the place, it’ll be the perfect fit. I feel like he felt pretty pressured. There were some schools that wanted him to sign during the early signing period. I was like, ‘Just take your time. There’s no rush.’
“I was like, ‘You’re not going to find many other places that are equivalent to Nebraska.’ I’d be checking in with him every single week just to see how he was doing. Obviously, when he’d get back from trips I’d ask him about how it went, how’s it going.”
Wildeman said he feels the consistent contact has provided the foundation for a lasting bond. Jones feels the same way.
“Tate’s a cool cat, man,” Jones said. “I feel like he’s a guy that, when it’s all said and done after our four years together, we can be lifelong friends.”