Shae Wyatt remembers well his introduction to Zion Perry.

It was during a high school football game between Wyatt's Millard West Wildcats and Perry's Lincoln High Links.

Wyatt asked someone on his team if the Links had any great players. "Yeah, they have Zion Perry," Wyatt recalls.

"The first kickoff we kicked off to him, he just took off and I was just like, 'Wow, that man is fast,'" Wyatt said.

On that day, Wyatt and Perry were on opposite sidelines. This fall, and for the next three years, the two wide receivers are leaving their marks for the same team.

They're part of Central Missouri's high-powered offensive attack. Wyatt, a redshirt freshman, leads the team in receptions (40) and receiving yards (746). Perry, a true freshman, is fourth on the team in receptions (20) and fifth in receiving yards (247).

Not only are they catching passes, they're catching the attention of opposing defensive backs at the NCAA Division II level.

"A lot of times, we'll run our routes, we'll do what we do and people will be like, 'Where you guys from?' and we'll say Nebraska and they're shocked," Wyatt said. "They don't expect our talent to be from there. Nebraska is one of those states where a lot of kids get underestimated, and it shows at a bunch of programs."

Where are you from? Perry said he gets the same question, too.

"I love seeing the reaction on people's face when I tell them Nebraska," Perry said. "I take a lot of pride (in that)."

Perry is just a year removed from playing at the high school level. The 5-foot-8 175-pounder said Lincoln High's fast-paced offense did a lot in helping him prepare for Central Missouri's schemes.

"It's a lot of fun," Perry said of the Mules' system. "That's one of the big reasons I came here. I knew I had an opportunity to get the ball and play in a high-speed offense and I like the coaches a lot. 

"We just spread the ball around a lot, and that's one of the things I like about our offense. We have our main targets, but after that, it's pretty spread out. It's pretty fun to play with because you know at any given moment you can get the ball. You obviously have to be ready when your number is called."

Perry began working out at the slot position before coaches moved him to the outside during fall camp. Playing outside gives the speedster more room to work.

Wyatt, meanwhile, works inside and outside, and is mostly utilized on mid-range routes. He used his redshirt year to learn the offense and put on nearly 15 pounds.

"Sitting out (last year) was one of the best things that I could do," Wyatt said. "We had five (receivers) that could easily play at any program in our league, so every day in practice I would just pick up from them. As a redshirt, you really didn't have to know the plays, but I studied them often. I focused on the weight room."

Perry and Wyatt are two of 12 Nebraskans on the Central Missouri roster. There are Cornhusker State ties on the coaching staff, too. John McMenamin, an Elkhorn graduate and former Wayne State assistant, is the Mules' offensive coordinator. Head coach Jim Svoboda was Nebraska Wesleyan's head coach from 1987-1993.

Central Missouri is 5-5 entering Saturday's regular-season finale against Northwest Missouri State. Perry said his finals schools were down to Northwest and Central Missouri. Northwest offered Wyatt a basketball scholarship, too.

Perry, who also returns kickoffs, said the key is to go out on a good note.

"This season hasn't exactly been a good one, it's been a big learning season for a lot of us," he said. "We had some pretty key players go down early in the season, so next man up, and I feel like a lot of us have stepped up in a positive way."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


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