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Football Special Section 2015

Nebraska defensive back Byerson Cockrell.

Nebraska safety Byerson Cockrell is third on the team with 55 tackles and tied for first in pass breakups with six despite missing the Purdue game to attend the funeral of a cousin. A former star athlete in Columbus, Mississippi (pop. 23,500), Cockrell says he feels fortunate to be playing big-time college football in Lincoln.

(HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS COLUMBUS THAN LINCOLN?)

"I think Columbus is a lot more country. There's not big buildings and nice stores. It's a whole different vibe. On top of that, the culture is a lot different, especially where I come from. It's music, food. Just a different culture. I would say it can be more peaceful here."

(IF I WERE TO VISIT COLUMBUS, WHERE WOULD YOU TELL ME TO EAT THAT'S NOT A CHAIN? NOT THAT I HAVE ANYTHING AGAINST CHAINS ...)

"I know one restaurant that I love. It's called Captain D's. They probably don't have it around here. It's a fish restaurant. I'd tell you to get fried fish. Beside that, there's a place — I can't remember the name because I haven't been there in a minute — but it has soul food. You know, greens, cornbread, pig's feet — all that type of food. The lady can cook really well."

(AFTER PLAYING JUNIOR-COLLEGE FOOTBALL, YOU PROBABLY FEEL FORTUNATE TO BE AT A PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA ...)

"It's a blessing, for real. I tell anybody, if you really want to face hard times, go to my juco (East Mississippi Community College) and spend a whole year there. There's nothing around there. Once you're there, it's like you're in a box. You have to go 45 minutes to get to a Walmart. You're stuck in a box."

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(WHEN YOU CAME TO NEBRASKA, WHAT WERE THE BENEFITS OF THE PROGRAM THAT STRUCK YOU IMMEDIATELY?)

"Well, first it was the Pell Grant. ... But it was also all the gear you get here, and the facilities. Our training room (at East Mississippi CC) was like a shack. This training room, it's big."

(DID THEY PROVIDE CLEATS AT YOUR JUCO?)

"Yeah, they do. But it's not like here, where you can be like, 'I'll get another pair this week.' It don't work like that. It's whatever you got, you've got to make it last, because they really can't afford to give you another pair."

(WHAT DID THE POSTGAME SCENE AFTER BEATING MICHIGAN STATE MEAN TO YOU?)

"It's just a blessing, man. It's so crazy, me coming from a small town — I didn't come from much at all —  to be playing on ESPN. All my people back home always calling me saying, 'Man, I see you on TV making plays,' and all that. It's just a blessing. I never would've thought it in a million years. I'm thankful for it."

— Steven M. Sipple

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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