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If Luke Reimer hasn’t fully mastered the art of making a first impression, he at least has a growing reputation for it.

The Nebraska sophomore inside linebacker’s eye-popping first collegiate start — a team-best 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble mixed in among several impressive plays — only served as the latest in a string of fast introductions. This one just came to a wider audience.

Those who have been around him over the past four years, though, are not surprised. They've seen this movie before.

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For inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud, it took one individual drill at the beginning of Reimer’s freshman year.

For Lincoln-based trainer Chris Slatt? One or two workouts.

For former Lincoln North Star coach Mark Waller? One practice.

You get the idea. 

It started as soon as Reimer moved to Lincoln from Ashland, Kansas, a town of less than 1,000 not far from the Oklahoma border, ahead of his junior year in high school. His dad, Wes, died not long before that and so he and his mom came to Lincoln to be closer to his older sister and her family.

Waller knew Reimer was enrolled at the school and planned to play football. He showed up for equipment checkout and athletic testing and impressed the staff. Then practices started.

“When fall camp started on Monday, after the very first practice, in between practices, I told my staff, 'This young man is going to be an impact player for us and he’s the real deal,'" recalled Waller, now an assistant at Elkhorn South.

Two games into the season, Waller moved Reimer to quarterback because of injuries at the position. From eight-man football in Kansas to quarterback at a Class A school in Nebraska, Reimer made the transition look easy.

“I told (Nebraska coach Scott) Frost and (inside linebackers coach) Barrett when they came out and recruited him when they first got hired, 'This young man is so raw. He’s not even close to his talent,' because he had really never lifted before,” Waller said. “I don’t think they had much of a weight room at his school in Kansas.”

South Dakota State and lead recruiter Dan Jackson thought they had a steal in Reimer when he committed to the Jackrabbits. Ohio came close to offering after assistant coach Jimmy Burrow came to see him but didn’t pull the trigger.

Around the same time Reimer was getting going at North Star, he began working out with Slatt, a speed trainer and former track coach.

“There’s a series of boxes I check with athletes and the first workout or two with Luke, I mean, he checked every box and more,” Slatt said this week.

When Reimer picked a walk-on offer at Nebraska over the scholarship offer to SDSU, perhaps it should have been no surprise how quickly he made it known what he had to offer.

Ruud has said multiple times over the past year that he could tell Reimer would be an impact player almost immediately.

"I told him, you could have held me hostage last year, really, if you wanted to and said, 'I'm leaving if you don't put me on scholarship,'" Ruud said last week. "I knew after his first individual drill last year that he was going to be a scholarship guy. When he got here, he was just a natural at the inside linebacker spot."

Added Waller, “I was down watching a practice (last summer), and this was after his very first scrimmage where he was just all over the field, and Coach Frost came up and said, ‘You know what, Coach, you were right, he’s really raw, but he’s not going to be a walk-on much longer.’”

How did he go so far under the radar? Playing mostly out of position in two years at North Star after two years in eight-man ball certainly played a part. Slatt has another theory, too.

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“Not being 6-foot-3 and not being 245 pounds, but being 6-1 and 195, he didn’t have measurables, but he has the one thing you can’t teach — well, you can teach it — but the one thing naturally that came to him was speed and the intangibles,” Slatt said. “And if you look at him, he’s got really long arms, short torso and long legs and big feet. So he doesn’t have the height but he makes up for it with length. …

“He carries most of his weight in the legs. You look at him and he’s got gigantic hamstrings and quads, and he’ll have a great opportunity with another year with (NU strength coach Zach) Duval in the offseason to grow his upper body. Compared to last year as a freshman, that’s why he’s 220 now because his upper body is growing, but it’s still not developed where he’ll be in a year.”

After appearing in 10 games, mostly in special teams duty, as one of only four freshmen who didn’t redshirt in 2019, Reimer missed Nebraska’s 2020 opener against Ohio State before stepping into the starting lineup against Northwestern. He admitted he was nervous at the outset — Ruud called his first drive "far and away his worst" — but he settled in from there and made several big plays.

“It’s just experience and you’ve got to get used to that,” Ruud said. “I do think once he got through that first drive, he played pretty well and, hey, the nerves are a good thing. You’re supposed to get nervous before a big game. Now he knows and he’s been there in that situation and he knows how to handle it and now we expect him not to have that little bit lackadaisical first drive and play like he did the rest of the game for the entirety.”

When the sophomore roared off the left side and blasted Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey for a strip-sack, Big Ten Network analyst J Leman said, "Reimer’s just playing at a different speed out there than a lot of people."

“It was awesome. I mean absolutely awesome,” Slatt said. “It was everything I thought of that kid as an athlete and as a football player. It was great to see him out there fulfilling what he can do.”

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“The dude works his tail off in practice,” sophomore outside linebacker Garrett Nelson said. “He does everything right. The guy is, I don’t want to say he’s a freak because he’s more than that. He works his tail off, he’s here every day, he is obviously talented, but that’s not how I’d describe him. He’s a hard worker.”

That sentiment is why essentially nobody in North Stadium was surprised by Reimer’s fast first start.

“You guys finally got to see what everybody at practice sees every day,” senior inside linebacker Collin Miller said.

Another first impression in the books, and now Nebraska is rightfully excited about what the next step might look like.

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