Rarely does everything go as planned over the course of a football game.
Against Colorado, Dicaprio Bootle turned in far more good than bad. Most of the time, though, the moments where something goes wrong are the most visible. That’s especially true for a defensive back.
As secondary coach Travis Fisher tells it, though, Bootle’s reaction to one of those moments played a factor in the sophomore from Miami earning a Blackshirt after the Huskers’ 33-28 season-opening loss.
Bootle played CU standout receiver Laviska Shenault close on a tough assignment — a fade from the slot where the 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver has plenty of space to widen his route away from Bootle’s leverage — but the sophomore receiver hauled in what ended up standing as the game-winning touchdown with 66 seconds remaining. Bootle made no excuses this week, though Fisher and safety Tre Neal both said he should have had more help.
“That would probably take about nine out of 10 DBs mentally out of it,” Fisher said of the touchdown. “He went on the sideline, grabbed a towel and was cheering for the offense. To me, that’s a Blackshirt. What we’re looking for in our guys, that’s a Blackshirt.”
Bootle is the first to tell you he’d rather have earned the Blackshirt by nabbing a game-winning interception. The kind of positive play that jumps right through the television screen. But he’s also comfortable donning the new garb.
“I think it’s safe to say that I felt better this year getting it than I did last year,” the 5-foot-10 corner said. “I just felt like I really earned it, especially with them holding out on the Blackshirts for that first week and not just giving them to everybody.”
He did it by playing mostly assignment-sound in coverage. He did it by setting a hard, physical edge in run support. He finished with three tackles and two passes defended in his second career start — he should have intercepted a botched flea-flicker in the first half — and he did it by playing each of NU’s 85 defensive snaps plus multiple special teams units.
“That’s why it was one guy in the room that got it,” Fisher said.
Even though Bootle is the greenest of NU’s starters in the secondary, he’s quickly established himself as a leader.
“He definitely was setting the tone out there especially on the back end, and we were just trying to follow his lead,” said Neal, a Central Florida graduate transfer who is new to Nebraska but played his 27th game for Fisher against CU.
Said Bootle, “It’s always important to go out there and set the tone. No matter what. It can be on special teams, defense, offense. Even a kicker can set the tone. I’m happy he said that. Tre Neal, that’s my guy right there. That means a lot to me that he said that.”
Bootle isn’t the biggest guy in the secondary. He’s polite and thoughtful with reporters. But then there he is, flying up and destroying a receiver’s block attempt so thoroughly that the receiver stumbles into the path of the running back for a loss. There he is, knifing into a play with abandon.
“Like right now, I’m just calm and cooled out,” he said at Memorial Stadium on Monday, “But when I hit that field, it’s just something else. I don’t even know how to explain it, to be honest.”
“He is a rough-neck guy,” the senior said. “He is very well-spoken, but when he gets on the football field he’s a dog. So that is the kind of guy you want to have out there. … When they’re playing, they don’t want to be on the other side of the hits being hit or the hurt. They just want to deliver it. I think you guys saw that.”