LINCOLN — He got strong the way a lot of former Nebraska offensive linemen did: by working as a kid on his grandpa's farm tending crops, baling hay.
Even if grandpa sold the farm four years ago, that's part of why the aptly named Tanner Farmer, Nebraska's fourth commit for the 2014 recruiting class, can bench press 225 pounds 33 times — strong numbers for the NFL Combine — despite lifting weights for just three years.
The other part?
“I like getting stronger,” said the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, whose max squat lift is 650 pounds. “I want to go down to the weight room.”
Said Farmer's father, Brian: “He's an all-in kid.”
Which is why Highland (Ill.) High School coach Jim Warnecke was surprised this spring that college football programs hadn't yet drooled over Farmer, who went undefeated while winning a state wrestling title.
But once Farmer won offensive line MVP at a regional Rivals camp near St. Louis, schools called in droves. Missouri, Minnesota and Illinois were among those who offered. So were the Huskers. A key difference: Only NU, Warnecke said, sent its offensive line coach — John Garrison — to the town of 9,919 for an evaluation.
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“It meant that much more,” Warnecke said.
So the three-star prospect headed to Nebraska's Big Red Football School on good vibes. By lunchtime Tuesday, he'd settled on NU and told his father the school “felt like home.”
“Well, bud, if this is it, do what you need to do,” Brian said to Tanner.
So Tanner called all the other schools who'd been recruiting him, informed them of his decision, and then informed Garrison and Co. With that, the Huskers had a fast-rising guard/center prospect on board who's similar in size and potential to Dan Samuelson, who committed to Nebraska last summer, then flipped late to Michigan.
But Farmer said there isn't another offer or school that could sway him.
“I'm set,” he said. “It's the best student support I've ever seen. I've never seen a stadium that huge. And the coaches are wonderful.”
Said his father: “I'm excited as hell. I'm elated, because a lot of schools will show you all the bells and whistles, but it's a lifestyle here. He's going to become the best football player he can be and the best student he can be.”
Warnecke said Nebraska fans should be equally pumped.
“He's as strong of a kid as you'll ever find,” Warnecke said. “Solid. I don't think he's had a tardy in his life. He's the complete package.”
Highland, which finished 5-5 in Illinois Class 5A, similar to Nebraska's Class B, played Farmer both ways as a left tackle and an interior defensive tackle. On defense, Warnecke said, Farmer was counted on to eat up double teams. That's where his strength came in handy.
“We'd like to use him more exclusively on offense this year,” Warnecke said.
Warnecke said Farmer is a polished player, but will continue to work on his footwork in preparation for the college level.
“He's meticulous,” Warnecke said. “If he has a weakness, he won't ignore it.”
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