The 2012 Nebraska team features six Cardinal Mooney high school (Youngstown, OH) alums inside the program: head coach Bo Pelini, offensive coordinator Tim Beck, graduate assistant Vince Marrow, wide receiver Tim Marlowe, offensive lineman Mark Pelini, and running back Braylon Heard.
The number will grow from six to seven in 2013, with the departure of senior Tim Marlow and the additions of linebacker Courtney Love and defensive back Marcus McWilson.
“The roof is high for both of these guys and really the sky is the limit,” said Mooney defensive coordinator Chris Amill. “You also won't find any guys who work harder than the two.”
When walking the halls, the gym, the weight room, and the locker room at Cardinal Mooney, it's hard not to compare the private Catholic high school's tradition to that of Nebraska.
“I think Bo took a lot of what he got here and took it there,” said Amill. “Here, when you put the Mooney jersey on, it represents more than just the 2012 team football team. It's everyone that's been through here. It's something you have to be part of to really understand and I know it's the same way at Nebraska.”
McWilson is a four-star safety according to FOX Sports NEXT and rated the No. 17 player at his position. With offers from Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, California, West Virginia, and Louisville, the senior pulled the trigger early, committing to Nebraska nearly a year before he could actually sign with the school.
“Marcus started out as a receiver for us, and anybody who knows Cardinal Mooney, we don't pass a lot,” said Amill. “So last year we started to use him at tailback and you could see the way that he ran. I think in the playoffs, every game he had one interception, returning two for touchdowns. It's at that point he started to make a name for himself.
“So we called some of the schools we have ties with and let them know, he's a football player and you should look at him before everyone else does.”
Love committed to Nebraska a few months after McWilson, deciding that following his teammate and playing for Pelini would be better than a load of other offers, including: Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. Love is a three-star prospect and rated the No. 38 outside linebacker in the country.
“We use him all over. You will see him on the defensive line, at middle linebacker, rushing from the outside linebacker spot. He's really versatile,” said Amill. “He's just a big physical specimen.
“He really goes and gets the ball. He's benching over 400 pounds and squatting 500. His work ethic is unreal.”
After winning a state championship in 2011, Mooney's season didn't go the way it was planned in 2012. The Cardinals went 3-6, dropping four out of their last five games – hardly because of McWilson or Love's efforts, who are both tight friends off the field.
“We like to hang out quite a bit, whether it’s getting some to eat or having a good time on the weekend,” said McWilson. “You can’t to just expect to be comfortable on the field if you don’t hang out together off. We want to know what we are thinking all the time to have that chemistry on the field.”
Nebraska has four players from the state of Ohio committed in the 2013 class, with a total of nine players already on the roster from the Buckeye State. With the coaching staff's background and the move to the Big Ten, it's likely that number could grow.
“Ohio has a lot of talent, no matter what year it is, especially around here,” said Love. “You have to take advantage of your situation and pick from your own backyard if your the coaching staff.
"They are a great group of people, and they care about you as a person before they care about you as a player. They are going to make sure you have everything in your life situated and academically, so you can get out of college, and be a good person. It’s like having a second dad really with those guys there. I know other Ohio guys would like that.”