Luke Reimer ran like hell, dove headfirst and hung on for dear life.
If you're a walk-on trying to stick with a football program, that's a good place to start.
Reimer's first career college game resulted in his first career big play — the Lincoln North Star product, playing on Nebraska's kickoff coverage unit, was the first to the ball after Colorado's Laviska Shenault fumbled at the end of a long kickoff return late in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's game.
"It was crazy. It was a lot of fun," said Reimer, who seems to have an odd definition of the word "fun."
"I thought it was going to be more than me and Colorado guys, but it was just me and Colorado guys. And I just held on to the ball as hard as I could, and they were just scratching at grabbing at the ball."
Reimer said he never lost possession despite Colorado's best efforts to separate him from the ball. Considering that at one point 19 of the 22 players on the field for the play were on the pile, and considering that it took a full 40 seconds for officials to untangle the mass of humanity, that's some impressive work.
But no more impressive than Reimer's rise this fall.
He joined Nebraska as a walk-on after originally committing to South Dakota State. That came a couple of years after he moved to Lincoln from Ashland, Kansas, where he played eight-man football before turning into a star at North Star.
“Luke’s like a power hitter in baseball; it’s a different sound off the bat and it’s the same with him on a football field,” North Star coach Tony Kobza said last fall. “When he hits somebody, the sound carries and he finishes with aggression. The best thing about him is he’s not shy about finishing tackles and making sure he sends a message to the offensive player.”
Reimer had 74 tackles as a senior, including 22 in one game. Then he moved downtown and kept making an impact. Through an impressive fall camp that had Nebraska coaches raving about his effort, Reimer moved past more heralded recruits and into a position for immediate playing time.
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"He’s a good player. He really is," NU inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said. "He’s out there for a reason, and I’m not going to be surprised if he does something good, because I know he can."
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Reimer came to Nebraska with intriguing physical attributes — he can cover 40 yards in a tick over 4.5 seconds and has a 37-inch vertical leap — but it was still an adjustment to the college game. Reimer still flew around, but in the early days of camp he was often flying to the wrong spot.
"The first couple days I was always getting corrected a lot in the film room and stuff. Coach Ruud and Coach Brim (graduate assistant Demeitre Brim) were really helpful with me, obviously, but they were just always correcting me and stuff," Reimer said. "Then about like Day 5 or 6 I was starting to make a lot more plays and getting corrected less and less about things.
"So that’s when I kind of went ‘Oh, I’m starting to make plays and playing well right now.’ So it just kind of went from there."
A minor knee injury midway through camp slowed Reimer enough to keep him out of Nebraska's season-opening win against South Alabama. But as soon as he was healthy, he was inserted onto Nebraska's kickoff return and kickoff coverage units, and now serves as one of the early success stories from the Huskers' rebuilt walk-on program.
"I think Luke has a bright future around here," NU coach Scott Frost said. "So we will continue to look for opportunities and avenues to get all those talented young guys on the field."
Reimer's coaches aren't the only ones taking notice of his quick rise.
"He is a walk-on," defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt said earlier this fall. "But he won't be a walk-on for long."