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Leave it to Twitter to be the place where Devine Ozigbo realized the plans for the next four years of his life were about to change.

It was December of 2014, less than two months before Mike Riley was to sign his first recruiting class at Nebraska. The running back from Sachse, Texas, had been a pledge to Iowa State, but he knew that wasn't going to hold. He was close to committing to Boise State.

Then he received that direct message on his Twitter account that turned everything. It was from Charlton Warren, the lone assistant coach who had been retained by Riley from Bo Pelini's staff, asking him if he was ever interested in Nebraska. No offer yet. Just a question.

Ozigbo knew his answer.

"As soon as I got that DM, I was like, 'If they offer, that's where I'm going no matter what,'" Ozigbo said. "Didn't even have to take the visit. I just knew the tradition and the people. I didn't know much, but I knew enough that if I got that offer, that's where I was going."

Husker fans had just basked in the senior season of Ameer Abdullah but the program was also in the freshest stage of a coaching transition. And there was a hole in the class at running back.

There had been a drawn-out recruiting saga with the highly touted Kendall Bussey, who had committed to Nebraska early but kept flirting with everyone else, then said goodbye for sure when Pelini was fired.

When Nebraska offered Ozigbo in early January and he committed that very same day without having ever visited Lincoln, there wasn't some dramatic reaction by the fan base. (Same as it was for Abdullah, by the way, whose commitment was not initially celebrated like those from Aaron Green and Braylon Heard.)

And, late last summer, when the Huskers added a ballyhooed true freshman transfer named Jordan Stevenson, Ozigbo wasn't the new back all the noise was about.

That's going to be of some annoyance to about anyone. Ozigbo was no different.

"At first I was a little butt hurt, but I had to get over it knowing these things happen and you just have to make sure you play your best game and beat the man next to you," Ozigbo said. "Regardless of if he was here, wasn’t here, I was going to have to beat other guys out, so add him to the list."

The more talked about running back transferred from NU the middle of last fall. Ozigbo? Still here. Winning some Husker hearts, leading the team in rushing through three games with 242 yards on 53 carries, which is 31 more rushing attempts than any other running back on the roster.

Against Oregon, Nebraska called on the sophomore to carry the ball 18 times in the second half.

On that game-winning drive that traveled 80 yards, it was No. 22 called upon to get the train rolling: Ozigbo for 9, then 7, another 9...

His best work was served on the final play. He didn't touch the ball. He did clear a linebacker out of the way so Tommy Armstrong could scoot 34 yards for a touchdown that set the stadium on fire.

"I had two options," Ozigbo said. "I could either square him up or cut him. The way he was positioned, just thought this was the best, so I just threw (myself) at him. It worked out that we won, so that was good."

His running backs coach, Reggie Davis, will sure take it. "If he would have got the guy on the ground, it would have been perfect, but it was pretty close."

And so that name has been on the tips of tongues all over the state this September: Devine Ozigbo.

Wonderful name, isn't it? His mom once told him it had great meaning, too. "In God's time everything is best."

Devine Ozigbo rather likes that.

"Something I believe for sure."

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Patience was necessary during the recruiting process to get where he wanted. And it often takes patience before making that critical cut on a run, like that one he had on his 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter against Oregon.

Ozigbo ran laterally for a couple beats, a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. To the average fan, it had the looks of a play going nowhere. But for a patient running back, the play was just beginning.

When the Duck safety came charging to lay a big hit, Ozigbo made one slick cut to his right and ran right through his arm tackle, finding the alley he knew would eventually be there. He ran through one more arm tackle, then bounced off a couple Oregon players at the goal line, scoring standing up.

Davis said Ozigbo showed since his arrival to Lincoln an impressive mental capacity to pick things up quicker than younger players sometimes do.

But in Year 2, it appears Ozigbo is doing a better job of giving as much punishment as he gets when he runs.

"He's not trying to dance as much," Davis said. "When he has the option to try to make somebody miss or run through them, he's running through them. I saw some people bounce off of him this game. I think he felt good about that."

His success is of little surprise to Bryan Munson, a contributor for Rivals and HuskerOnline.com who has covered recruiting since 1999 and lives close to Ozigbo's hometown of Sacshe. He was drawn to the running back immediately when he went to watch Sachse play in 2014.

Munson had gone to the game mostly to check out a few players in the 2016 class, including cornerback Jared Mayden, who signed with Alabama, and twin athletes Devin and Donovan Duvernay, who ended up at Texas.

Stars everywhere, yet it was Ozigbo who took Sachse's first play of the night, and of that 2014 season, and raced 49 yards for a touchdown. He had 112 yards on 16 carries in that game, but also two catches for 82 yards.

"He had all the skills," Munson said. "Sachse is a pretty wide-open offense, and the runs Ozigbo would break were huge runs, but he'd also get involved in the passing game. ... He wasn't just a pounding runner that was a bowling ball."

Munson credits Nebraska coaches for doing their due diligence. He thinks some schools backed off due to a few testing numbers the running back had that previous summer -- particularly his 40 times.

"When you put on the film though, and when you watched Devine Ozigbo, and when you watch him now, you know he's not a 4.6-plus guy," Munson said. "He's a fast runner. He doesn't look it. But when you start comparing him to other players on the football field, you see the game speed and understand what kind of skills that guy has."

There is still plenty of room to go for Ozigbo, and he's the first to tell you that. A player has never arrived, certainly not three games into his sophomore year after just 91 career carries.

The Huskers appear like they'll continue mostly with the 1-2 punch of Ozigbo and senior Terrell Newby, who is listed as the starter and, while carrying it just seven times against Oregon, averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said this week he likes "the change of pace" both backs provide.

Along the journey, Ozigbo said the advice of family, coaches and teammates have proved important. It was his older brother who last year, amid all the Stevenson hype, reminded him to keep focus, his time was coming.

Devine put his head down and worked.

"Sometimes I have to talk to myself and calm myself down that things are going to come," he said.

The running back who still isn't quite 20 years old seems most grounded. You can be that and still shoot real high.

This week he posted an Instagram photo of him scoring on that 7-yard touchdown against Oregon and tagged it with a Dr. Seuss reference, tweaking the Seuss phrase just slightly to, "Oh, the places we'll go."

He still had a lot to learn about Nebraska when he committed, but he knew about the history of the Husker I-back.

He knew about Ameer and Rex Burkhead, who wore the same No. 22 he does, and once dominated just down the road from Burkhead's hometown of Plano.

"I just thought I could follow it up and be the next."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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