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Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska, 9.14

Nebraska's Jeremiah Stovall (24) pursues Northern Illinois' Cole Tucker in the second quarter on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Jeremiah Stovall literally dreams about special teams.

On Monday night, just after game-planning meetings as Nebraska prepared for Northern Illinois, Stovall dreamed about blocking a punt.

On Saturday, his fellow punt-return unit comrade Isaiah Stalbird blocked one punt and forced a fumble on another. On the first one, Nebraska had seven players past NIU’s three-man shield by the time the fumble occurred.

So how did the dream match the reality?

“I mean of course I was the guy that got it and I was also the guy who scored, too,” Stovall said of the dream. “It doesn’t work like that, but we got two of them last week. That’s really cool to see.”

The Creighton Prep graduate had another dream become reality this week: He’s been put on scholarship for his final collegiate football season

“He’s been a core special teams player for us for a long time. This is his last season. He’s a starter on all four (special teams units),” head coach Scott Frost said Monday. “There are several guys who deserve it, but we rewarded him with one and are closing in on adding another.”

Stovall met with reporters Monday before the decision had been announced, but his contributions on special teams are the reason he earned it. And boy, did he earn it.

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Stovall originally made the roster during Mike Riley’s tenure as a tryout player and worked his way into a special-teams role and some spot work in the secondary in 2017. Then after Frost took over, Stovall didn’t even make the initial 110-man camp roster before last season.

“With the first staff, nothing’s given to you, you’re always going to have to work for it,” Stovall said. “Obviously it was a little challenging and sometimes you want to beat yourself up because you feel like, 'Well I already did this,' but then it’s like, 'Who am I?' I’m still a good person and it just drove me a little bit more, so now I just want to push myself harder to know who I am and why the last staff saw what they saw.”

Clearly, the new staff saw it, too. Stovall went from missing the camp roster to eventually tying for the team lead in special-teams tackles with eight and earning the program’s special teams player of the year award.

Now he’s on every unit and takes it upon himself to be a leader on them.

“It doesn’t have to be just playing on offense or just have to be playing on defense,” Stovall said. “You can really make your name here just playing on special teams. … You can really make a big impact. It’s motivating to see how much of the game can be impacted based on special teams.”

Watch: Frost, players talk about road ahead to Illinois

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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