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Huskers add three-star Florida running back Jaquez Yant as a walk-on
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Huskers add three-star Florida running back Jaquez Yant as a walk-on

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Jaquez Yant still recalls the moment with awe in his voice. Did everybody really show up just for him?

This was January, back when the three-star 2020 prospect wasn’t sure what college football would look like for him. The prep senior had drawn interest from various schools over the years — Florida and Auburn were often in touch along with multiple Group of Five programs — but he never felt what he would call “love.”

Then one day, Nebraska coach Scott Frost showed up unannounced at the running back’s high school, Amos P. Godby, in Tallahassee, Florida. With him was defensive backs coach Travis Fisher — a famous alum of the school — and multiple other NU assistants. They wanted to see Yant.

“Oh my God,” Yant told The World-Herald.”The head coach coming to my school? Every other school that came and saw me maybe brought one or two coaches. It really meant something to me.”

That memory stuck with Yant on Thursday as he announced he was committing to the Huskers as a walk-on in the 2020 class. He said he had other walk-on opportunities that would have been much closer and less expensive. There were a couple scholarship options available at smaller programs as well.

But lately the 6-foot-2, 225-pound rusher known for breaking tackles and busting big plays has been stuck on Nebraska. With all academic hurdles cleared this summer, he’s set to arrive in Lincoln on July 27 and join a walk-on class approaching 30 players.

Nebraska initially explored Yant as a linebacker but will start him at running back, where he has played exclusively since he was 8 years old. He’s coming off a pair of productive campaigns as an upperclassman, running for 583 yards and 10 touchdowns on 99 carries (5.9 yards per carry) in 13 games as a senior. His junior year featured 908 rushing yards on 108 totes (8.4) and 10 scores along with 12 catches for 150.

Godby coach Brandon McCray said Yant has “next-man speed,” meaning he always seems to be faster than whoever is pursuing him. He has a burst, especially within the first 10 yards, and owns reliable hands too. Injuries have never been a problem.

“He’s coming in fresh and motivated,” McCray said. “Whenever you guys get a chance to see him, it’s going to be a sight for everybody to behold, I believe.”

Fisher played a central role in the commitment, Yant said. His message was not only one of football opportunity but also the chance to develop as a person. Nebraska, Fisher told him, would be there for the teen whose mother passed away when he was 15.

The Huskers continue to build depth at the position, which includes four or five scholarship underclassmen — including 2020 signees Marvin Scott and Sevion Morrison — and just one senior in Dedrick Mills. NU running backs coach Ryan Held this week named sophomore and Millard West grad Brody Belt and redshirt freshman Zach Weinmaster as walk-ons who have impressed.

“What Nebraska told me is they just want to have a player like him on their roster,” McCray said. “They wanted to get him there and then figure out exactly where he could help them. But they felt he definitely could become a player for them at some point.”

Yant said the process has been humbling, though he firmly believes there’s a purpose behind everything. He might be a walk-on in label, but that will be the furthest thing from his mind when he joins fall camp.

“I live by the rule that says never let one man take you down,” Yant said. “So it’s going to have to be a good three, four people to get me down. I run aggressive. I make sure I see you before you see me. That probably sounds kind of crazy on the offensive side of the ball, but it’s a different ballgame with me. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again — I’m planning on being one of the best running backs to come out of Nebraska. And I’m going to be.”

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