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Ethan Piper

Ethan Piper signs his National Letter of Intent to play football at Nebraska during a signing day ceremony at Norfolk Catholic High School on Wednesday.

NORFOLK — Ethan Piper was drenched in sweat after a track workout last spring.

He was walking down the hallway at Norfolk Catholic High School to his mom’s office in the fundraising department.

That’s when the lineman got a simple text he’ll never forget.

"Call me."

Piper followed the order of Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and called.

After exchanging what Piper called "regular conversation," Chinander had a question for Piper.

"Do you mind if I give the phone to Coach Frost?" Chinander asked.

Piper pulled his sweat-soaked sweatshirt off and started jumping around with excitement as he exchanged words with Nebraska’s head football coach.

"It was unexpected," Piper said. "It was great. I probably talked to Scott for 10 or 15 minutes. We just talked about basketball and track, regular-life stuff. But just the way he talked to you, it was just genuine. It was like talking to my uncle."

Piper’s uncle, Nate Piper, played against Frost in high school. Piper made sure to mention that memory.

The phone call that’s etched in the mind of Ethan Piper and Leisa, his mom, is when Leisa knew her son was going to Nebraska.

"That was just the ultimate goal," Knight football coach Jeff Bellar said. "His heart was there. When Frost called and offered him a scholarship, he pretty much had him sewed up.”

According to Ethan, it wasn’t as simple as that, however.

Iowa was pursuing Piper hard from the start of his junior year, and for a while he said he was leaning toward the Hawkeyes.

He even made that known in a speech before his signing on Wednesday morning in the cafeteria of Norfolk Catholic High School. Piper thanked his friends, coaches and his family.

“I’d be signing for Iowa if it wasn’t for you guys (his family), and Scott Frost,” he said.

He said he had a good relationship with the Hawkeye coaching staff, especially coach Kirk Ferentz. Bellar even grew a relationship with the Iowa staff and said he was thoroughly impressed.

"I got to know their coaches and thought that would really be a good fit,” Bellar said. “But as we talked, with Scott Frost coming in, it was just the perfect fit.”

Piper reinforced that “perfect fit” Bellar alluded to all morning on Wednesday.

“Growing up as a kid, I know Nebraska holds a special place in every kid’s heart here,” Piper said. “Especially in these small towns.

“Going to Nebraska, you can make so much more impact on the community. That’s a big thing I took into consideration. Everything that Nebraska brings to the table is everything that I want to do.”

Piper is holding off that Husker impact he talks so much about until after his spring semester.

As Frost and the other Nebraska coaches push recruits to enroll early, Piper made the decision to finish out his senior year with his classmates.

He also has some "unfinished business," as his mom said.

“There is a shot put record out in the hallway there that he has his eye on,” she said.

Piper and Frost have even talked about that.

Frost told Piper that he can only throw 61 feet.

"He said, 'Once you get over that, you’re breaking my record. You can’t do that,'" Piper said, laughing.

Piper also has to sing in the ensemble of Norfolk Catholic’s performance of "Beauty and the Beast" this spring.

After that, he will be fully a part of Husker football team.

“Ethan says as soon as he throws at state track, he will drive down to Lincoln, seriously,” Leisa said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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