Senior wide receiver Bradley Pelkey’s Nebraska Wesleyan football career will come to an end Saturday when the Prairie Wolves finish the season at home in a 1 p.m. contest against Buena Vista.
And it appears the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Fort Collins, Colorado, native has saved his best for last. He had six catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns in NWU’s 54-35 loss at Dubuque last week. Pelkey has now scored TDs in five straight games, including the blocked punt he scooped up and returned to the end zone two weeks ago against Luther.
Derrick Curtis was not available to play last Saturday, so Pelkey was more of a primary target in the passing game, sparked by quarterback Jonathan Curti’s 22-of-41 performance through the air for 329 yards.
“Jon put me in great positions to make plays,” said Pelkey, who has 28 catches for 416 yards and eight TD receptions this fall. His eight touchdown catches is tied for second in the American Rivers Conference.
“They (Dubuque) had some tough corners, but he put the ball in a great spot, and that’s all I can really ask.”
Pelkey and the rest of the wide receivers had to step up their games when returning senior starter Jackson Hinze tore his left ACL during fall camp. Despite the injury, the right-footed Hinze has been the Prairie Wolves’ punter all season, and in recent games, began kicking extra points and field goals as well.
Hinze even ran for a first down off a fake punt last week against Dubuque.
“Jack’s injury changed us a lot,” Pelkey said. “We’re all super-close with him, and it was tough to see him go down. We’ve been slim all season at the wide receiver spots and it forced all of us to step up and produce more.”
Pelkey originally wasn’t looking at Nebraska Wesleyan or football when he was coming out of high school. He was on his way to visit Simpson when he and his mother, Robin, decided to stop in Lincoln along the way and check out NWU.
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“I stopped and met with Coach (Dale) Wellman first because my mom wanted me to play basketball in college,” Pelkey said. “She suggested that we should visit with the football coaches as well, and after I met with a couple of them, it was an instant fit. I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
As for basketball, Pelkey never regretted going the football route, even after NWU won the NCAA Division III men’s basketball national championship last March.
“I don’t think I can keep up with those guys,” he said, laughing.
NWU football coach Brian Keller said opposing defensive backs have difficulty keeping up with Pelkey because of the precise routes he runs.
“Bradley’s not overly fast, but he’s always open,” Keller said.
“He has great hands, and you could see on his high school film that he ran really good routes and he caught everything close to him,” the coach added. “He was maybe 5-11 and 145 pounds when he got here, but we thought if we could get some size and strength on him, he could do some great things for us.”
Pelkey will be one of 23 seniors and 16 starters playing their final contest at NWU. Although the Wolves are just 4-15 the past two seasons, Pelkey thinks the program is moving in the right direction.
“I know the record doesn’t show it, but since we got here four years ago, we’ve made big steps,” Pelkey said. “The culture has changed here, and this year was another big step. It’s going to continue in that direction.”