They were two players Nebraska needed to raise their hands and say yes because of their potential as football players, sure. But, just as importantly, the Huskers needed them to say yes for perception’s sake.
When the Huskers offer two in-state kids like Lincoln Southeast’s D.J. Foster and Gretna’s Mick Stoltenberg, the expectation is that the deal will be closed.
Sometimes there’s a little waiting involved, mind you. In Stoltenberg’s case, the wait was just two days after he was offered. In Foster’s case, it was 14 months.
But on Saturday, both recruits provided the payoff, announcing their commitments to Nebraska, setting off celebratory “boom” tweets from Huskers coaches during the course of Big Red Weekend.
Add to it a late-night commitment from wide receiver Demornay Pierson-El and it was quite the day for Nebraska recruiting.
But no commitment was perhaps as crucial for Nebraska to land as D.J. Foster, who will join his brother, tight end Trey Foster, as a Husker.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Foster had other attractive programs courting him. And he was rather intrigued by a few of them, pondering potential future visits to their campuses. UCLA, Georgia and Florida especially had his interest.
“They all fit my requirements for a school that I’d want to go to,” Foster said. “But Nebraska, they had one thing everybody else didn’t, and that was relationships. To have my brother and a staff that I’ve known, it was just real easy.”
Foster said he didn’t know when he woke up to attend Nebraska’s second annual Big Red Weekend event that Saturday would be the day he'd put an end to his recruiting process.
But even during the busyness of Saturday he found a moment to sit down by himself and think things over. The relationships gave him his answer.
“Definitely ecstatic,” Foster said. “I’m happy that I’m going to be here to see him every day ”
Foster is the second commit from Lincoln Southeast in the class, joining athlete Luke Gifford, who was Nebraska’s first commit back in March.
Since 2010, five Southeast players have received scholarships from the Huskers.
“It feels great to be able to say that I’m somebody from Southeast that’s going to Nebraska, and to be able to play out that tradition,” Foster said.
Foster becomes the second guard prospect to commit to Nebraska this week, joining prospect Tanner Farmer of Highland, Ill.
When Pierson-El, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound wide receiver from Alexandria, Va., followed up with a commitment of his own, it marked Nebraska's fifth commitment in 48 hours, and seventh commitment in eight days.
"I just felt like it was home," said Pierson-El, who was also considering Boston College, North Carolina, East Carolina and Old Dominion.
Pierson-El said wide receivers coach Rich Fisher was so excited when he heard of the commitment that "he couldn't even sit down."
There's good reason for such excitement. It had taken a while for Nebraska to find momentum in this recruiting cycle.
Before the commitment of kicker Drew Brown eight days ago, Nebraska's class was ranked in the mid-70s nationally by the 247Sports recruiting site. By the time Foster committed Saturday night, the Huskers had climbed to 38th, moving up 18 spots on Saturday alone.
Nebraska jumped to 35th in Rivals.com's rankings and 42nd on FoxSportsNext.com, with Foster’s commitment vaulting the Huskers up nine slots.
While not holding an offer for near as long as Foster, Stoltenberg's commitment on Saturday afternoon may be no less significant over the long haul.
Stoltenberg’s versatility, among other attributes, grabbed the attention of Nebraska coaches.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Stoltenberg’s scholarship offer came Thursday just hours after he impressed coaches at the Big Red Football School.
The Husker staff, led by head coach Bo Pelini, worked Stoltenberg out as an offensive lineman, defensive lineman and tight end. It is believed he will begin his college career as an offensive lineman, most likely a tackle.
A three-star-rated high school defensive end, Stoltenberg spent most of his time last season at that position, said Gretna’s seventh-year head coach Chad Jepsen. Stoltenberg also played tight end at times.
"This year, he's going to play a lot more both ways," said Jepsen, noting Stoltenberg's development since last season and the change in makeup of the team. "He'll play offensive tackle and still defensive end. He probably won't play as much tight end for us, but he may play a little bit there, as well."
Jepsen didn't want to speculate which position Stoltenberg would play at the next level. Some schools looked at him as a defensive end, the coach said. Others saw him as an offensive tackle.
Having run the 40 in 4.75 seconds, Stoltenberg turned down offers from Ohio, Army, Tulsa and North Dakota State, among others. Stanford and Iowa also visited Gretna, Jepsen said.
The lineman's stock has risen significantly in the past few months, almost in a whirlwind manner. He gained his first bit of national recognition after a strong performance at the Rivals Camp Series near St. Louis in April, where he was named one of the top performers by Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt.
Stoltenberg has worked out during the last two offseasons with former Nebraska standout lineman Steve Warren.
"He's gotten bigger, stronger, a lot more confident," Jepsen said. "I think you're going to see a big change in him as people watch him from last year to this year."
Jepsen thinks Stoltenberg will be in good hands at Nebraska.
"They have a great staff and great group of guys who I've met with numerous times," Jepsen said. "Barney Cotton's been out to recruit Mick numerous times. I think they have the best interest in Mick and all the (recruits) when they look at those kids.
"It'll be a good fit."
Foster thought the same.
And it seems the other in-state commit Gifford is happy to finally have some local company on the Husker commit list.
After Foster’s news, Gifford tweeted: “What a great night for Husker football!”