Say what you will about Bill Callahan’s coaching staff, but one thing they were good at was recruiting talent to Nebraska.
Prince Amukamara wasn’t a highly recruited player like Ndamukong Suh or Marlon Lucky, but he became one of the best defensive backs in Husker history.
Hailing from Apollo High School in Glendale, Ariz., the 6-0,185-pounder was purely looked at as an athlete by college recruiters, someone who could play on offense or defense.
“Once the recruiting process started, I thought he could play on either side of the ball in college and I encouraged him to be open to both and sold him as both to recruiters,” said Amukamara’s high school football coach, Zack Threadgill. “It just depended on what position the school needed him to play. I personally projected him to play on defense as a cornerback.”
As a senior for the Hawks, Amukamara tallied 95 tackles and two interceptions and averaged 26 yards on punt returns and more than 20 yards on kickoffs.
“On defense, we liked him up at free safety so he would be in the middle of the field, keeping him involved and to help prevent the big plays,” Threadgill said. “He led our team in tackles that year. The awards he got were of what he did on offense, which overshadowed what he did on defense.”
But at the next level, Amukamara wanted to run away from opposing teams instead of toward them.
“I would prefer to play offense in college,” Amukamara said at the time of his recruitment in 2006. “I am very versatile. I also have good field awareness. My speed is pretty good as well. I really want to get on the field though, but preferably on offense."
And who can blame him for wanting to play offense? The Arizona High School Player of the Year ran for more than 2,100 yards with 24 touchdowns, and added more than 250 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
“We ran the Wing T my first two years, then went to a single-back offense when I became head coach. We made no secret who we were giving the ball to,” Threadgill said. “Prince was very good with the ball in his hands, so his main position was running back.”
When Nebraska came calling and started to recruit him as a running back, Amukamara, rated as the nation’s 47th best running back and as a three-star prospect by Scout.com, took notice and became interested in the Big Red.
“I know that Nebraska has a great program and that they are in the Big 12,” he said at the time. “I just like what I have seen so far when I have watched them on TV. I saw them against Texas. I pictured myself in the backfield during that game. I could see myself playing there."
But seeing yourself on TV and physically playing in Lincoln, Neb., are two totally different things. So Amukamara set up a visit to see the Nebraska/Colorado game in November. It was possible, as his team lost in the first round of the state football playoffs in double overtime, and finished 7-4 on the season.
"I am looking forward to just seeing the university,” he said then. “Of course, I want to meet the players and the coaches. I am just trying to have a good time."
It turned out that the trip to the Cornhusker State was more than he hoped for.
“The trip was a fantastic trip for being my first official visit. Overall I rate this experience a 9," Amukamara said. "I loved their fan support. They show their team and their players a lot of love. Also, just the team and really how they do everything together. After the game I got to go into the locker room and they were having a good time. It really was a great experience."
Amukamara was accompanied on his trip by fellow Arizona natives Jaivorio Burkes and Eric Hagg.
Prince Amukamara in HS
"Eric committed while we were up there,” Amukamara said. “I really was eager to possibly commit, but I just want to check out some other schools. I am pretty sure that all of the other schools are pretty good, too. I have one [visit] set up for Fresno State for sure. I am looking at setting up one to UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado or LSU."
But Amukamara, with scholarship offers from Colorado, Oregon State, Nebraska, UNLV, UTEP and Fresno State, ended up visiting just Fresno State and Nevada, along with Nebraska. He felt satisfied with the number of visits and made his decision between those three schools.
The best question regarding Amukamara’s recruitment is, “Why didn’t more big-time football programs recruit him?”
“Great question!” Threadgill said. “I don’t know why some of the Pac-10 and in-state schools were [not] overly interested. Arizona and Arizona State showed some interest, but not enough for a scholarship. I never got an explanation as to why he wasn’t getting heavily recruited by them. Prince was a great student and was never a problem on campus or in the community. Since Prince, I have not had a kid go Division I, or at the talent level he had. He was a rare talent.”
Jason Jewell, Southwest Recruiting Analyst for Scout.com, interviewed Amukamara after his decision to commit to Nebraska. Here is that story from December 29th, 2006:
So, why Nebraska?
“It is where I felt most comfortable,” says the 6-2, 180-pounder. “When I got off the plane, I felt like this is where I want to spend the next four or five years of my life.”
He did, turning out to be a great fit. Amukamara became an All-American cornerback at NU, and was a first-round NFL draft pick of the New York Giants in 2011.
Prince tripped to Lincoln when the Huskers played Colorado, and that game atmosphere helped seal the deal. “It helped with my decision. I could see myself on the field,” adds Prince.
Another reason Amukamara chose NU was the fact that several other Arizona natives will put on the red and white uniforms next year. Coach Bill Busch has done a great job of recruiting in the Grand Canyon State, pulling no less than six commits out of the state. CB Armando Murillo (Eastern Arizona JC), DE William Yancy (Ironwood HS), OT Marcel Jones (Trevor Browne HS), OT Jaivorio Burkes (Moon Valley HS) and WR/DB Eric Hagg (Ironwood HS) have all committed to NU.
One question about Nebraska's success in the state of Arizona, now picking up their sixth commitment from there, is about in-state recruiting for all of these players.
"No, we didn't get a lot of attention from the in-state schools,” Prince said. “In our hearts, we wanted to stay in-state. We didn't get a lot of attention until after the season, and we just said we were going out of state, no matter what."
Prince tripped with Hagg and Burkes, and when Hagg committed it was reported earlier that Amukamara had thoughts of committing then but didn’t. “Eric and Jaivorio are two of my best friends. It will be good to know people when I get there,” says Prince.
Prince made two other official visits during the recruiting process. He tripped to Fresno State and says, “It was a nice trip, but just didn’t feel right. It felt good but not as good as Nebraska.” He says Fresno was his second choice.
Nevada was his other visit, and he says his high school coach was hyping up the Wolf Pack. Apollo head coach Zack Threadgill played quarterback at Nevada in the late ‘90s but Prince says he was “just not comfortable.”
So what position will he play?
“They want me to be like a Deion Sanders type of player. They want me to return kicks, play wide receiver and running back and maybe play some DB,” says Prince. He says they will try him at all spots in summer camp before ultimately making their decision. Prince has this to say, “It doesn’t matter where I play but I prefer to play on the offensive side of the ball.”
Amukamara’s family is also happy with his college decision. “They are very excited. They want me to excel in academics as well as athletics.” Prince is fully qualified.
Nebraska fans should look forward to having a multipurpose threat suiting up in the red and white. He has great vision and cutback ability. He has the ability to score any time he touches the ball and is an overall great person. I am sure he will do Husker Nation proud.
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