Will Bolt was never far away.
His cell phone still has a Nebraska area code, even after five years as an assistant baseball coach at Texas A&M. He was locked into that phone two weeks ago, staying up late into the night in West Virginia, where the Aggies were playing in their own regional, watching Nebraska's heart being broken by Oklahoma State's game-winning home run in the Oklahoma City Regional.
Now, Bolt is back. Announced as the 24th head baseball coach in Nebraska history, he'll officially begin his duties Monday after being revealed as the successor to Darin Erstad on Friday afternoon. He will be introduced at a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
"It's the state, it's the people, it's the passion for Big Red. It's just how much everybody supports and is behind (the program). It's the blue-collar mentality, the Midwest values, I could go on and on and on," Bolt said during a radio interview on 'Husker Sports Nightly.' "Just how special a place Lincoln is, how special Husker Nation is, how much myself and my family just love Nebraska.
"To be able to be in this position, I feel so fortunate and just so pumped to get going."
Bolt will start on a five-year contract worth $300,000 a season, a salary that places him firmly in the top half of Big Ten coaches, with an assistant coach pool of money that will be "near or at the top in the Big Ten," NU athletic director Bill Moos said Friday.
After hiring native son Scott Frost to lead the football program and born-in-Lincoln Fred Hoiberg to coach men's basketball, Moos once again tapped into Nebraska's past for the coach to lead one of its flagship teams.
Moos said Bolt was the only person he interviewed for the job, and the only one he offered the position to.
"I like the fact that (Frost, Hoiberg and Bolt) are all Midwest folks. The work ethic that people have in Nebraska and this part of the country; that humble pride, I'm really impressed with that. They're winners, and don't need to beat their chest about it — just go out and do it," Moos said. "And Will certainly has that."
A hard-charging infielder, Bolt starred for Dave Van Horn’s Nebraska teams from 1999-2002 as the program rose from anonymity to national power. A Conroe, Texas, native, Bolt had been an assistant at Texas A&M for the last five seasons under Rob Childress, himself a Nebraska assistant coach under Van Horn.
Bolt replaces Erstad, who resigned June 3 after eight years at the helm.
According to at least one national college baseball expert, Bolt checks the boxes Nebraska needed to fill.
"I think Will's a great fit for Nebraska," veteran college baseball analyst and Nebraska native Kyle Peterson told the Journal Star earlier this month. “I’ve been around him plenty the last few years. I think he's ready. He obviously was involved in the program when it was really going well. Plus, if you coach and recruit in the SEC, and you are in that meat grinder for 10 straight weeks, you learn plenty.”
While Bolt wasn’t born in the state, his connections to NU and his place in the baseball program’s history are prominent.
A member of Van Horn’s first recruiting class in Lincoln, Bolt was the associate head coach at Nebraska from 2012-14 under Erstad. He was a graduate manager for the Huskers in 2004 and a volunteer assistant for the Huskers the next season.
Erstad, in fact, was one of the people who recommended Bolt to Moos as the coaching search got under way.
"I know Darin has always been a great support for me, obviously giving me a job and taking a chance on me out of junior college," Bolt said. "I'm just glad to have him in my corner. … And he's left us in a really good spot, just from a standpoint of where the roster is and the success they had on the field."
As a player in Lincoln, Bolt was a four-year starter and team captain on Nebraska’s 2001 and 2002 College World Series teams. He finished his career holding six school records: games played (251), games started (242), at-bats (922), hits (281), doubles (56) and assists (639).
He has often been compared to Van Horn, in everything from coaching style to mannerisms to demeanor.
Now, he'll try to lead the Huskers back to the success they enjoyed when Bolt was in Lincoln as a player under Van Horn.
"There's no expectations that are going to be any higher than the ones we have within our program," Bolt said. "The expectations in our program are going to be higher than what anybody else could expect for us. Day in and day out, we're going to strive to achieve the highest, and you can't reach the top of the mountain without taking care of the little things.
"That's going to be something our guys are going to get preached to about, probably until they're sick of hearing it."
Bolt’s only other head coaching experience is at Texarkana College, where he went 140-82 from 2008-11 and won a pair of junior college Region XIV championships, and for the Parkville Sluggers, a summer collegiate team that played in the M.I.N.K. League.
Bolt was also a volunteer assistant at Texas A&M in 2006 and 2007. He has built his reputation the last five seasons in College Station as a recruiter and the coordinator of the Aggies' offense.
"He is going to field a team that is going to be relentless, and he will build something special at the University of Nebraska," Childress said in a statement. "I look forward to seeing the great things he accomplishes, adding to his legacy in Lincoln."
According to D1Baseball.com, Bolt is set to bring onto his coaching staff Lincoln native and former Husker Jeff Christy, as well as Sam Houston State assistant coach Lance Harvell.