He decided it was time when it started to rain.
Peyton Newell already was close to committing to Nebraska, but there he was, driving to Lincoln for the Big Red Weekend and June raindrops started to kiss his car.
After arriving, it rained some more, as a golf cart took him to the coaches’ offices.
Not a downpour. Just sprinkles. Enough to let him know.
Rain has always meant something to Newell. Some of his best games have come in the rain: four-sack games and games with eight tackles for loss.
When it rains, he always thinks of his late mother.
And now, in the rain, the defensive end from Hiawatha, Kan., figured it a most fitting moment to end a recruiting process that came with scholarship offers from 34 schools.
“That’s the time when I knew that this was the right choice, and through everything, that is where my mom wanted me to go,” Newell told the Journal Star this week.
He told Husker coaches he was on board that day, though Newell waited to make a public announcement until Friday afternoon, when he could celebrate with townspeople who supported him and were there for his family when his mother, Missy Newell, died from breast cancer when he was just 5.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Newell picked Nebraska over a final short list that included South Carolina, Kansas and Kansas State.
The verbal pledge gives the Huskers 12 known commitments heading into Saturday’s season opener against Wyoming, a game Newell plans to attend.
He grew up a Jayhawk fan. His father was a former walk-on football player at KU. He attended many games at Allen Fieldhouse growing up, and counts 23 family members who attended Kansas.
But Nebraska’s campus was just 120 miles away, closer than KU, actually, and Newell always felt a pull toward the Huskers.
“I always worried through the process that there wouldn’t be that one school that stood out,” Newell said. “But I was fortunate enough that Nebraska was that one school. From the beginning, Nebraska always stood out. They were the team that I compared everybody to.”
Newell understands there are people around the town of less than 4,000 who hoped he had picked Kansas. He also knows you can’t please everyone, especially not when it comes to recruiting.
“You know, if I picked South Carolina, people would be upset. If I picked K-State, people would be upset,” Newell said. “That’s just something you have to deal with. I know I’m going to lose some people and gain a lot more people, so I’m excited for it. … At the end of the day, I’m glad I’m a Husker.”
Newell is rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports and FoxSportsNext, and given three stars by Rivals and ESPN.
His weight-lifting numbers are eye-popping.
According to Newell, he can squat 700 pounds, bench press 400, hang clean 345, run the 40 in 4.8 seconds and vertical jump 33 inches.
Chris Diller, coach at Hiawatha High, said Newell is one of the “instrumental guys in getting this program turned around.”
The team had gone 1-8 when Newell was in eighth grade. It’s now made the state playoffs the past three years.
Diller said the signs of what Newell could be really started to come his sophomore year. “That’s when it was, like, oh, my, this guy could really be a player.”
In one game last year, Diller says Newell forced four fumbles, had a handful of sacks and posted double-digit numbers in tackles for loss.
“He was just all over the place.”
Now, Nebraska is glad to have him in place on its commitment list. He joins Mick Stoltenberg of Gretna as the second defensive linemen in the class.
Husker coaches have talked about the need to win recruiting battles in a 250-mile radius of Lincoln. And they certainly went all-in on Newell, who was invited and attended Big Red Weekend even before his junior year.
“My biggest thing was they care for me as a person and just not as a football player,” Newell said. “A lot of schools had maybe one or two coaches reaching out. But Nebraska had five or six coaches messaging me, sometimes not even talking about football, but about how life’s going and school, and stuff like that.”
Having received recruiting attention since the eighth grade, Newell is glad to close this chapter.
Attention now falls squarely on a senior season that begins Friday.
“I’m ready for it to end,” he said. “It’s been a long process. I’m definitely happy and very blessed to be in this situation.”