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Steven M. Sipple: With Keith Williams as intense mentor, Reilly and Westerkamp gun for NFL
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HUSKER FOOTBALL

Steven M. Sipple: With Keith Williams as intense mentor, Reilly and Westerkamp gun for NFL

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Brandon Reilly hears from former Nebraska football teammates who are training in faraway places for a shot to make the NFL.

A graduate of Lincoln Southwest, Reilly didn't land an invitation to receive specialized out-of-state training, which actually is fine with him — because Lincoln is where Keith Williams resides.

"I feel a lot of people know I'm going to run a pretty good time in the 40," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Reilly, a wide receiver. "I think a lot of it will come down to how my routes look, how crisp they look."

That's where Williams, the third-year Nebraska receivers coach, enters the picture. Reilly has been working out with Williams three days a week for 60 to 90 minutes per session.

Perhaps you've heard Williams is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to coaching receivers.

Bring it on, Reilly said.

"Even when you think you've nailed it perfectly, there's always something small he can critique," he said. "It's an ongoing process to get everything perfect."

Reilly needs every edge he can muster in his NFL bid, as does ex-Husker great Jordan Westerkamp, who's training on a limited basis in Davie, Florida, as he recovers from a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered Dec. 21.

Westerkamp, the team's leading receiver with 38 receptions last season despite missing three games with injuries, said he's ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Two months removed from surgery, he "has been progressing like crazy," he said. 

He said he'll be running in a week or two and was upbeat about recovering in time to impress NFL scouts — at Nebraska's pro day March 14 or during individual workouts for teams, or both.

Neither Reilly nor Westerkamp is a lock to be drafted, but they're talented and accomplished enough to get long looks from teams, as is fellow 2016 senior Alonzo Moore.

Williams obviously helps their chances greatly.

"He's one of the best receivers coaches, if not the best, in the entire nation," Westerkamp said. "He has sent so many players to the NFL, and he understands what it takes.

"He coaches you hard. He coached us unbelievably hard, and that's what we needed. He definitely got us ready to take that next step. I'm actually looking forward to getting back to Lincoln and working with him within the next couple months."

The 6-foot, 200-pound Westerkamp arrived at Nebraska as a meticulous route runner, "but Coach Dub (Williams) takes it to the next level, an NFL level," Westerkamp said. "Every little thing matters to him — coming off the ball, exploding in and out of cuts. It's awesome to have that level of expertise from a coach."

Reilly offers an example of a route that can be painstaking to master.

"A deep comeback can be pretty tough," he said. "You're going full speed for 20 yards, and then you have to stop and come back right back down (to the ball)."

In some cases, the key is for a receiver to be able to control his speed, Reilly said.

"The quicker you can drop your hips and be violent out of the break, the more separation you'll have," he said.

The fact Williams takes time to work with Reilly and other ex-Huskers — including Tommy Armstrong, who's making a difficult switch from quarterback to wide receiver — tells you plenty about Williams' dedication to his athletes.

"It's just out of his own time, and he's not charging me or anything like that," Reilly said. "People know he's a great guy, but I think he's even more spectacular than people even know. I can't thank him enough."

As Reilly trains in Lincoln, Westerkamp has been hard at work since Jan. 7 at Bommarito Performance Systems in Florida, a training center he was referred to by his agent. Two other former Huskers, safety Nate Gerry and linebacker Josh Banderas, also are training at Bommarito.

Reilly and Westerkamp's distinctly different NFL workout scenarios are fitting in that they joined the Nebraska program having experienced completely different recruiting circumstances. Westerkamp was a four-star prospect from Lombard, Illinois, who visited Notre Dame and was wooed by a long list of other major college programs.

Meanwhile, Reilly essentially wasn't recruited by major colleges. Nebraska welcomed him as a walk-on, telling him he could play either defense or offense, "which basically told me they didn't think I'd make it too long.

"But I think I made a name for myself."

Westerkamp envisions himself in the NFL as "a prototypical slot guy, a guy who can move the chains and make any catch."

Reilly, who averaged a team-high 19.6 yards on 21 catches last season, sees himself in the mold of former Kansas State walk-on Jordy Nelson, now of the Green Bay Packers.

"It's just a matter of someone giving me a chance," Reilly said. "Nebraska gave me a chance and let me prove myself, and I think I did that fairly well. I think if an NFL team does the same, it'll be the same result."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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