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NU football vs. Minnesota, 10/20/18

Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo (22) breaks loose for a touchdown against Minnesota on Oct. 20, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

The nerves haven’t set in yet and Devine Ozigbo isn’t exactly sure if — or, more realistically, when — they will.

For now, the former Nebraska running back and NFL Draft hopeful has returned to the Dallas area, where he’ll watch the draft unfold over the course of three days beginning Thursday with his family.

“I’m not really too stressed about it, I’m just kind of letting the days go by as they do,” Ozigbo said. “I’m just trying to maintain calm, I guess. Maybe if it gets super late and nothing’s happened, but as of right now, I’m calm. You can never predict something like this. …

“But I’m going to keep my phone on loud and keep it pretty close.”

Ozigbo said Wednesday that he expects he’ll work out Thursday and then watch some of the draft’s first round in prime time that evening. As Friday progresses through rounds two and three, maybe the butterflies will start to creep in.

The 6-foot, 230-pounder said he’s heard from teams that they think he could go anywhere from the fourth to the seventh round.

“I’m pretty confident that I’m definitely going to get my shot,” Ozigbo said. “I think I’m going to hear my name called. It all depends on a team need and a team situation, but after the third round, which is pretty much what they’re saying, that’s when it kind of gets unpredictable because one pick can change the whole board for all 32 teams.

“It just kind of depends on the situation and how many picks and the roles and the needs teams have to fill before me. But I’m feeling pretty confident.”

One thing is clear: Ozigbo helped his professional stock significantly with a breakout senior season for the Huskers. The story’s been well-covered at this point. Ozigbo did not lock up the starting job until the fourth game of the season, but proceeded to rush for 1,082 yards (7 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns, becoming among the most important offensive weapons at Scott Frost’s disposal in his first year as the Husker head coach.

Ozigbo, really, went from being an afterthought and a candidate to get lost in the coaching change shuffle, to joining wide receiver Stanley Morgan as NU’s best chances at having draft picks this year.

Ozigbo met formally with four NFL teams in recent weeks — Top 30 meetings with the Browns, Vikings and Washington and a local day visit with the Cowboys — and also had a private workout with the Saints.

NFL teams are allowed up to 30 draft-eligible visitors and can also host a day for local prospects. 

“It was a pretty cool experience, my first time seeing NFL facilities and stuff like that,” Ozigbo said. “The (visits) were pretty similar overall. You’re probably going to do a physical, probably going to do some basic orthopedic testing, making sure you’re healthy, talking to coaches, watch some film and give some feedback on that.”

Other former NU players such as offensive lineman Tanner Farmer and linebacker Luke Gifford have a chance to hear their name called Saturday, too, and will almost certainly get a chance as undrafted free agents if they’re not drafted.

“Hopefully we’ve got a few guys that are going to get the opportunity to play at the next level,” Frost said. “Stanley and Devine in particular, I would hope are draft picks and I think both guys have a chance to surprise people once they get into a pro town. I think they both have a chance to make your mark.

“Sometimes when you’re not drafted in the first couple rounds, it’s just being in the right place at the right time, so you never know. I know both those two are talented enough to be capable of being good players.”

Nebraska has had at least one player drafted every year since 1963. The school had never waited longer than it did last year when quarterback Tanner Lee, the lone Husker picked, came off the board in the sixth round (No. 203 overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Among the other Nebraska hopefuls this year are defensive backs Tre Neal, Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams, running back Mikale Wilbon, linebacker Dedrick Young and defensive lineman Freedom Akinmoladun.

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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