You’ll never believe this, but Jordan Westerkamp is more concerned about helping his Nebraska football teammates win a bowl game and go into the offseason with momentum than he is about setting any individual school records.
OK, that’s heavy sarcasm for those who haven’t yet discovered that the mild-mannered, selfless Westerkamp isn’t one to first seize an opportunity to put his name next to the winner of a Heisman Trophy on Nebraska’s single-season charts.
The fact remains, though, that Westerkamp, a junior wide receiver, needs 68 yards to match Johnny Rodgers’ 1972 school single-season record of 942 receiving yards. If Westerkamp catches just one more ball, he’ll surpass Nate Swift’s 2008 total of 63 receptions for most in a season by a Nebraska wide receiver.
“People bring it up to me here and there, but that’s not my goal,” Westerkamp said. “It means a lot to me, and it’s an honor being up there with all those greats. It’d be awesome to break those records, but like I said, it’s not my ultimate focus.”
This is all possible, of course, because Nebraska (5-7) was chosen for a bowl game despite its losing record.
The Huskers face UCLA (8-4) in the Dec. 26 Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, California, and that’s where Westerkamp has turned his focus.
“My goal is to get better with our team, get these extra practices and give it our all against UCLA,” Westerkamp said. “We’re lucky to get this extra game, and we’re going to practice hard and give it all we can.”
Don’t mistake his use of the word “lucky” as another word for undeserving.
On the contrary, Westerkamp said Nebraska is deserving of a bowl game, citing the close losses — seven by a combined 31 points — and a victory against Big Ten Conference champion Michigan State.
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“I personally think we earned it,” Westerkamp said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who work hard. It’s great to have this extra game.”
Westerkamp has caught a pass in 26 straight games, the fourth-longest streak in school history. His 874 receiving yards currently rank third on the single-season school chart. Rodgers is first with 942, and Swift second with 941.
Surpassing Rodgers and Swift seems a better chance than passing running back Marlon Lucky for No. 1 on the single-season chart for receptions by any player. Westerkamp has 63, and Lucky, the beneficiary of many check-down passes, caught 75 footballs in 2007.
Westerkamp, who has seven touchdown passes for the season and had two long receptions on Nebraska’s game-winning drive against Michigan State, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the conference coaches and media.
Westerkamp joins a long list of skill-position players who will return next year, making this extended bowl season important for the continued transition to first-year coordinator Danny Langsdorf’s offense.
Westerkamp said December will be used to focus on improving every aspect of the offense, and nothing in particular.
“Just the little mistakes — procedures, decision-making by everybody, receivers, quarterbacks, linemen,” he said. “All the little things that kind of held us back this year, just focusing on that and getting better.
"These extra practices are going to be huge for us and for the younger guys on our team as well, just to get extra work.”