Up until about a year ago, Marcus Mbow considered himself more of a basketball player instead of a football player.
In fact, the loyalty wasn’t even really a close split.
“I always played football, but I just hated it, like in middle school, I’d never get much playing time,” he said. “I just always loved basketball."
But then something changed for the Wauwatosa (Wisconsin) East offensive lineman. He discovered a feeling on the football field that it’s hard to get anywhere else.
“Just being able to dominate. Being able to move people around,” he said. “… This is my first year taking football really serious. I’ve come such a long way. Even if you watch the first game of the season vs. the last game of the season and just knowing what I’ve done in a year … so it’s not all potential and I know I can get a lot better.”
Since then, not only has his affinity for football grown, but he’s become a dedicated student of the game. He trains for it, specifically. Along the way, he’s gone from something of an under-the-radar college prospect to one who’s squarely on it and firmly has the attention of Nebraska’s coaching staff.
The only problem: His ascendance in the eyes of college coaches was followed this spring by the coronavirus pandemic. Consider this: Mbow was set to attend a Nebraska junior day in late January, but travel problems prevented him and his family from making it to Lincoln. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t be a big deal. He put a March 15 junior day on the books. Except that was nixed in the early wave of coronavirus-related cancellations.
In three months since then, it’s been all phone calls, text messages and virtual visits for Mbow, even as his list of suitors continues to lengthen. In the past three weeks, for example, he’s added scholarship offers from Indiana, Virginia and Arizona to a list that already featured more than a dozen schools.
That can make the current restrictions — official visits are out of the question, as is any in-person recruiting, through July at least — all the more difficult to wrestle with.
If you’re on Twitter and follow recruiting, you’ve likely seen the extensive communication between several members of NU’s 2021 recruiting class and Mbow. First, it was a fishing competition, then a dunk contest. Highly competitive, all of them, and Mbow figures he held up pretty well in both. There is more to it than that, though. It’s a way to get to know each other without actually being able to meet in person.
“It makes me feel a lot better because when I go through stuff I’m looking at for a school, it’s not all about the facilities and whatnot,” he said. “The facilities and the most winningest program, we don’t have that (at Wauwatosa East). My school doesn’t have the most wins or the best facilities. So I just look at the relationships with the players and coaches. Especially with everything that’s been going on.”
Mbow says he isn’t worried about waiting it out, though. That could change — more than worry taking over, he could just decide he knows where he wants to go — but for now he’s hoping patience can carry the day and he can make some visits at some point late in the summer or early in the fall.
He’s well aware that the rate of verbal commitments is accelerating across the country. On the radio earlier this week, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said he thinks three times as many prospects have pledged as is normal this time of year and many are doing it without having actually seen the campus they commit to in person. That’s the case for three of Nebraska’s 10 2021 pledges at this point: outside linebackers Patrick Payton (Miami) and Will Schweitzer (Los Gatos, California), and offensive lineman Branson Yager (Grantsville, Utah).
“I’m not going to rush my decision unless I feel comfortable with it,” Mbow said. “I’m not saying I’m the best player in the country or anything, I’m just saying I don’t feel like I have to worry about losing a spot because not only do I have 16 offers, but they’re all good programs.”
The latest updates from the Nebraska football recruiting trail
Campus and in-home visits are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. But recruiting isn't necessarily slowing down. Here's the latest from the Huskers.
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The Bellevue West standout achieved the necessary grade on a Friday test, which cleared him to qualify at Nebraska.
Nebraska is adding another walk-on kicker to its ranks, but this one has some high-level Division I experience.
Jared Bubak, a Lincoln Christian graduate and former Arizona State tight end, announced that he's going to grad transfer to Nebraska.