July 26, 2009

Future Husker walk-ons shine in Shrine Bowl

In a way, Saturday's 51st annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl was an audition for Schuyler's Mitch Hron and Lincoln North Star's Tyrone Lewis.

By the end of the North team's 19-16 win over the South at Memorial Stadium, the two Husker preferred walk-on linebackers both had put on fairly impressive showings in their final game as high school players.

Hron finished the night with a game-high 11 tackles with a pass breakup and a tackle-for-loss, including a solo stop on a fourth-and-goal run on the 1-yard line. Lewis also reeled in a big game with seven tackles, two sacks and interception returned for 20 yards.

For both players, having the chance to showcase their talents on the Memorial Stadium stage was an opportunity they weren't going let slip away.

"That was actually one of my biggest drives, that I'll be playing my next four or five years here," Hron said. "I wanted to put on a good show for the coaches that came, and just show them what I'm capable of. I just wanted to come out here and show that the underdog can win."

While both players had plenty of full-ride offers from Division-II schools from around the region, they each said having the chance to suit up for Nebraska was a dream come true.

Hron said he had offers from essentially every D-II school in Nebraska, as well as some in Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. He even said Iowa State had expressed interest. However, as soon as he got his first taste of Nebraska football through the walk-on bridge program back in June, he knew he was going to be a Husker.

"It's the University of Nebraska-Lincoln," Hron said. "When they ask you to do something, you do it. I've been a Husker fan since I was 3. The whole Blackshirts of the 90's teams, I just wanted to live that dream."

Lewis also had his share of full-rides to choose from, including offers from Nebraska-Omaha, Nebraska-Kearney, Northwest Missouri State and Minnesota State. Like Hron, Lewis said the prospect of wearing the 'N' on his helmet and playing at Memorial Stadium was worth far more than any scholarship.

"I'm a Nebraska kid, so I grew up loving the Huskers," Lewis said. "Not many of those other programs do you get a chance to be on the field in front of 85,000 fans watching your every move. I don't know, I think I was good enough for D-I, even though I didn't have a very good high school career. I just took the chance to come here and walk-on."

Nebraska's coaching staff obviously kept an eye of the game, as along with Hron and Lewis, NU had three other future walk-ons playing in the game in Battle Creek linebacker Robert Barry, Bishop Neumann lineman Brandon Chapek and Lincoln East receiver Tyson Clark.
But it wasn't just coaches in attendance. Several Husker players made their way to the game, including quarterback Cody Green and tight end Ben Cotton as well as fellow incoming freshmen Brent Qvale, Nick Ash and Jeremiah Sirles.

After the game, several of the current and future Huskers went down on the field and chatted with Hron, Lewis and the rest of the NU walk-ons.

Unless they can make NU's 105-man roster, Hron and Lewis won't actually report to the team until the end of fall camp. Either way, judging from their performances on Saturday, both players seem ready as ever to keep Nebraska's successful walk-on tradition alive and well.

"This was a real big game talent-wise, so I knew that if I could dominate here that it would show that I'm one of the best players in the state, and I did that," Lewis said. "Hopefully I stood out in the coaches' eyes."

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