OMAHA — Avante Dickerson is headed to the Pac-12.
The standout Omaha Westside defensive back picked Oregon over Nebraska during a signing day ceremony Wednesday morning at Westside High School.
Dickerson made a trip recently to Eugene, Oregon, to see the UO campus with his mother, but they couldn't have any in-person contact with the Ducks' coaching staff, couldn't tour the facility or go inside Autzen Stadium. Still, Dickerson saw what he needed to see.
"Just walked around the campus, walked around Eugene. Really just kind of feeling the atmosphere of everything," he said of the benefit. "It was kind of weird because we really couldn’t see anything. COVID really messed up everything. …
"I was just trying to get out of it, if that place felt like home to me, that’s a reason I would go there."
That element, finding a place that felt like home, eluded Dickerson for a long time. He verbally committed to Minnesota in April and stayed pledged to P.J. Fleck's program, but did not sign a national letter of intent in December, signaling that he planned to keep his options open for a few weeks longer. Only recently did he publicly back off of his nonbinding verbal commitment.
"It was just a mind thing," Dickerson said. "I was having trouble deciding where I wanted to go, sitting in my room thinking about it nights and days. What should I do? I don’t know what I should do. I was scared that I wouldn’t know at this point (on signing day) and that I just wouldn’t know where I wanted to go.
"It was stressful, and at the same time I’m kind of happy its over."
Dickerson was a first-team Super-State selection by the Journal Star after accounting for 886 all-purpose yards, including 583 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns in helping lead Westside to a Class A state championship. Defensively, Dickerson had four interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
He’s a consensus four-star prospect, considered by the 247Sports Composite to be the No. 121 player nationally, the No. 8 cornerback and the top player in the state of Nebraska for 2021. Rivals considers him the No. 232 player nationally and second in the state behind NU offensive line signee and midyear enrollee Teddy Prochazka.
The Huskers recruited him all along, but Dickerson said he wanted to leave home and experience another part of the country. He said he's excited about being one of the only players from the Midwest on Oregon's roster. One other notable: five-star defensive back Dontae Manning from last year's class, a Kansas City, Missouri, native whom Dickerson spent some time with during his visit to Eugene.
"(Nebraska was) pushing for me, but at the end of the day, I had to do what’s best for me," Dickerson said. "I love Scott Frost, I love the coaching staff. I know they’re going to do wonderful there. Same with Koby (Bretz, a Nebraska defensive back signee from Westside). I can’t wait to see them do big things there, but I have to do what’s best for me."
Dickerson said he made his decision in the past two weeks, but didn't tell Bretz until Tuesday.
"That’s my best friend. My No. 1, Day 1," Dickerson said. "I can always rely on him, he can always rely on me. No matter where I go, no matter where he goes, I’ll always support him no matter what. He’s going to support me no matter what."
Dickerson made it clear that he thinks his style of play fits well in the Pac-12 and he's excited to play against teams that like to throw the ball a lot. He projects as a cornerback at Oregon and said he's built up a good relationship with assistant coach Ron Chance, who was at Minnesota when the Gophers first started recruiting him.
"Coach Chance is just a good guy," he said. "I can talk to him whenever I want to, and so if I have something bad or I’m having a bad day, I can rely on going to him."
Leaving home will be tough, but Dickerson said his mom is excited for him and happy with his decision, even if it means being farther away.
"My mom is my No. 1 supporter and she's always been there for me. I'm the way I am today because of my mom," he said.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.