LINCOLN — Nebraska recruit Zach Hannon went to a scouting combine a year ago and wanted to make sure he stood out. So he switched positions.
Undersized offensive tackles don't often turn heads, Hannon figured. Not when they're running through timed drills or matching up for one-on-one battles. He thought he had a better chance of showcasing his footwork and agility at defensive tackle.
His decision paid off.
Arkansas extended a scholarship offer to Hannon a couple of weeks later. The coaches thought his body frame and skill-set could translate to the offensive guard spot.
“I wasn't expecting it to work out the way it did,” Hannon said. “But I did really well. I caught their attention and caught a couple other people's attention.”
Several other offers soon started pouring in. Nebraska was seventh or eighth in line, the offer coming a few hours after assistant coach John Garrison sent Hannon a Facebook message to request a copy of his highlight tape.
The sudden interest may have surprised Hannon initially, but he quickly adjusted. After all, he'd been preparing for the recruiting process since joining — as a freshman — the varsity squad at Kansas City's Rockhurst High School.
“I've always wanted to play D-I football,” Hannon said. “I didn't take it for granted.”
He made his own YouTube video, replied to Facebook messages from coaches and chatted with reporters on the phone. He attended a lineman-only camp at Notre Dame after his sophomore year, which was the first time Hannon switched over and played defense to get noticed.
“A lot of people say it's way too much to handle, but I just enjoyed it,” he said. “I tried to make sure I learned something different from all the schools that I went to and from all the coaches I talked to.”
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Hannon committed to Nebraska in August. He'd visited Lincoln about four times before that.
He developed a strong relationship with Bo Pelini. Garrison and Barney Cotton, too. Having former high school teammate Michael Rose on campus didn't hurt NU's recruiting pitch, either.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and weighing about 300 pounds, Hannon will start his collegiate career at left guard when he joins the Huskers this summer.
“He did all the right things to be recruited,” said Tony Severino, Hannon's coach at Rockhurst. “He put himself out there, and all the offers started coming.”
Hannon's maturation started during his junior year, Severino said. Then Hannon excelled at that combine. Now he's rated as a three-star prospect by all four of the major recruiting services. He's a top 10 overall player in Missouri, according to 247Sports and Rivals.com.
Earlier this month, Hannon participated in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, where he practiced for a week against two high-profile defensive tackles — Alabama pledge Darius Paige and Michigan commit Maurice Hurst Jr.
“Zach has good strength and a good, wide frame,” Severino said. “He's a space-eater.”
But Hannon moves well, too. Just ask his lacrosse coach.
Hannon has size not normally suited for the sport, but his quick feet make him a valuable asset for Tim Reidy's squad. Exposing Hannon's determined mentality to the team helps, too.
“He's a phenomenal young man. A hard worker, with a great attitude,” Reidy said. “Having Zach around, he shows our kids that if you want (success), this is the work ethic that you have to put in.”
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