When I left Iowa, I had no idea where I would be playing baseball. Like football, I wanted to challenge myself at the top collegiate level and I wanted to be at a school that emphasized strength and conditioning (I secretly wanted to play football again). After shopping around, my three finalists were the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the University of Memphis, and University of Nebraska.
Growing up in the Midwest, we get accustomed to a certain version of the English language that we all understand. Heading to the South for UAB and Memphis was a whole new world. The southern drawls were so difficult for me to understand that I thought paying attention academically would be too challenging. Not to sound ethnocentric, but I had a hard time communicating. Realistically, I had no idea what they were saying. That left Nebraska as the last school standing.
I played summer ball with a teammate that pitched in Lincoln. He spoke highly of their new coach so I was familiar with the program. On my visit, the facility tour was spectacular. Thanks to the football program’s national championships, all athletic facilities were first class. At Iowa, each sport had their own weight room, with football having the biggest and best. At Nebraska, their Cosco-sized weight room was for all sports. And, their Husker Power system was the best in the country. This was a program I could take pride in.
Coach Dave Van Horn told my dad and me that he wanted athletes in his program, not just baseball players. His goal was to put the best players on the field, regardless of scholarship or walk-on status. Coach Van Horn also told me that since I had been a Division I football player with good high school baseball credentials, I was the type of athlete he was looking for. He would put me on the roster without ever having seen me play.
Coach Van Horn sold me on his program and I was all in. But, since I had been committed to college football the previous year I needed to be sure I was in baseball shape. I needed to get my timing down and my arm ready. My new teammates were coming back to school after spending their summers in elite college summer leagues, so I needed to step it up. I wanted my first impression to show that I belonged and that I was ready for BIG XII baseball.