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Huskers land 'game-changer' in New Jersey LB Mikai Gbayor

Huskers land 'game-changer' in New Jersey LB Mikai Gbayor

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Mikai Gbayor

Incoming Nebraska linebacker Mikai Gbayor suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in November, but is on the road to full health as he gets ready to arrive in Lincoln next month. 

There’s no doubt about the fact that this weekend is going to be a tough one in the Nebraska football offices.

Instead of opening a season against Purdue or Rutgers, the Huskers are waiting along with the rest of the Big Ten to find out if they’ll play at all in 2020.

NU, though, also got a shot of good news Friday night on the recruiting front when three-star linebacker Mikai Gbayor (Irvington, New Jersey) verbally committed to the program.

Gbayor announced his pledge on social media, donning a red Huskers hat during a ceremony on his front porch. 

That will take some of the sting out of things back in Lincoln.

Gbayor, listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, is likely to begin his Nebraska career at inside linebacker, though Irvington head coach Ashley “Smoke” Pierre raved about his star pupil’s versatility.

“I think he’s a game-changer, man,” Pierre said. “He’s a kid that coaches across the country would love to have. He does all the right things. He walks the walk. He talks the talk. He’s a leader on the field and he’s a leader off the field. He’s good academically.

“Athletically, he strikes well, he moves laterally well. He transitions well, as well. Those are the things that make him kind of different than most people.”

Gbayor in recent weeks has been able to get out and see the campuses of the colleges he considered as his finalists, including NU, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan State. For the Huskers, outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson led the recruitment and has actually known about Gbayor for years. Once he returned from spending the 2019 season with the New York Giants, Dawson got back in on the recruitment and got plenty of help from inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud.

Pierre thinks Gbayor will fit right in in Lincoln.

“He just loves football,” Pierre said. “He studies football, he watches college football, he watches the NFL. He loves it where, kids these days, a lot of them like video games and girls or whatever, but he’s in tune with the sport, and I think that helps set him apart.

“Watching him grow for the past five years has been just great to see. He’s taken the weight room seriously, he takes care of his body the right way.”

Gbayor put up big numbers as a junior in helping Irvington to the state semifinals in New Jersey, finishing the season with 86 tackles (including a whopping 32 for loss) and 14 sacks, according to The start of his senior year has been delayed, but Irvington is set to open its season in early October. 

Gbayor is ranked No. 10 on that outlet’s list of the top 50 recruits in New Jersey. Both 247Sports and Rivals consider Gbayor a three-star prospect. 247Sports considers him the No. 22 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 7 player in New Jersey for the 2021 cycle.

Gbayor has played defensive end in the past for Irvington, and he’s played inside linebacker, outside linebacker and can even man the secondary if needed.

“He’s been able to play different positions and been able to dominate different positions,” Pierre said. “Mikai is a guy where you don’t have to know where he’s going to play on the field, you just know he’s going to impact the game. …

“He’s not the 6-4 guy that most colleges are recruiting for at outside linebacker nowadays, but he’s tremendous when he’s blitzing and a guy who can play in an odd front, even front, come off the edge and he can play the (middle linebacker). It’s going to be fun to watch him at the next level, and I think he’s a guy that can play on Sundays if he keeps going on the path that he’s on now.”

NU now has 18 known verbal commitments in its 2021 class and has added four to the group since Aug. 23. The class is now ranked No. 16 nationally by Rivals and 22nd nationally by 247Sports. 

Name Position Hometown (School) Stars
Marques Buford DB Oakdale, Conn. (St. Thomas More) ***
Koby Bretz DB Omaha (Westside) ***
James Carnie TE Norris ***
Gabe Ervin RB Buford, Ga. ***
Thomas Fidone TE Council Bluffs, Iowa (Lewis Central) ****
Mikai Gbayor LB Irvington, New Jersey ***
Kamonte Grimes WR Naples, Fa. (Palmetto Ridge) ***
Heinrich Haarberg QB Kearney (Catholic) ***
Shawn Hardy II WR Kingsland, Ga. (Camden County) ***
Wynden Ho'ohuli OLB Mililani, Hawaii. ****
Randolph Kpai ILB Sioux Falls, S.D. (Washington) ****
Chris Kolarevic LB Traverse City, Mich. (Northern Iowa)
Henry Lutovsky OL Mt. Pleasant, Iowa ***
Seth Malcom ILB Tabor, Iowa (Fremont-Mills) ***
Latrell Neville WR Missouri City, Texas (Hightower) ****
Teddy Prochazka OT Elkhorn (South) ****
A.J. Rollins TE Creighton Prep ***
Markese Stepp RB Indianapolis (Cathedral)
Samori Toure WR Portland (Oregon Westview) **
Jailen Weaver DE Antioch, Calif. ***
Malik Williams DB Buford, Ga. ***
Branson Yager OT Grantsville, Utah ***

Contact the writer at or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.


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Husker football reporter

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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