Noah Vedral checked one of those storybook moments off his list last fall.
The Wahoo native and Nebraska quarterback dove over the pylon, capping off a 20-yard scoring run and notching his first collegiate touchdown at Memorial Stadium, where his family has extensive history and where he grew up coming to games.
Even still, 2018 was not an easy year for the sophomore signal-caller.
He wasn’t ruled eligible until late Friday, Oct. 12, forcing a dash to the airport to hop a commercial flight to Chicago before Saturday morning’s game against Northwestern.
Then he saw his lone game action of the season against Bethune-Cookman later in the month, completing just 2-of-9 and throwing an interception to go along with a touchdown run.
Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco has made it clear since then that it wasn’t really fair to Vedral to thrust him into action, considering he barely got any practice outside the scout team before mid-October.
“Because throwing is a discreet skill, it has a beginning and an end, it continually has to be polished,” Verduzco told the Journal Star this spring. “Some guys you make that comment and it’s like this giant revelation, but it’s been in the research for 1,000 (freaking) years. A continuous skill you don’t necessarily need to tune up all the time like riding a bike or swimming.”
Quarterbacking, though, is different. And Vedral had extensive rust to knock off. Then he got hurt — a muscle strain, head coach Scott Frost said last year — and didn’t even dress for NU’s final two games.
Vedral, though, is happy and healthy this spring and in the running for NU’s No. 2 quarterback job behind sophomore Adrian Martinez.
“I’ve got to be better to make the team better,” he told reporters Monday. “As good as Adrian is, if I can chase him and catch him, that makes our team better regardless of who plays. So as a competitor, no matter what, even if he’s starting, (Andrew) Bunch will say the same thing, Matt (Masker), Luke (McCaffrey). We’re chasing him because he’s a good football player and that makes the rest of us better if we can get closer or catch him.
“The more of us that can play like him, the better we are as a team.”
The pecking order is still unclear, though Frost pointed Vedral out last week and said he’s been impressed with the sophomore’s work this spring. The adjusted redshirt rules also leave open the possibility that McCaffrey could see the field even if he doesn’t win the back-up job, since he’s allowed to appear in four games without losing his redshirt.
“I suspect that Coach Frost wants us to have a true No. 2 and a true No. 3 and so on and so forth and then pick our spots as it relates to that redshirt rule with the freshmen and how that all gets pieced together,” Verduzco said. “I suspect we’re going to be in tight ballgames, so how that gets worked out with a young freshman who might go in and get some reps, we’ll just have to see.”
Vedral, meanwhile, could have watched this winter in college football unfold with anger, considering quarterbacks were granted immediate eligibility with ever-increasing frequency. Justin Fields at Ohio State. Tate Martell at Miami. The list goes on.
“I’m not bitter about that,” Vedral insisted. “That stuff is out of my control. We filed it and did what we could. I’m happy for (those) guys. Having sat out, you don’t really want that for anyone. I think the NCAA’s doing the right thing by just kind of looking at the scope of the thing and the landscape and just giving (immediate eligibility) to them.”
That’s not how it played out in Vedral’s case, but hey, he’s here now and he’s not really interested in looking back.
“Coming off a season when I didn’t get very many reps, I just want to get back to feeling comfortable and fast again with my decision-making and seeing things clearly,” he said. “I’m getting there every day that we get practice.
“These next five practices for me and the spring game, or however many we have left are important for me to continue to just knock that rust off and bring myself kind of back out of the closet and get ready to go.”