“There’s too many kids from this state right now playing at other schools and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that those kids are here,” Frost said Dec. 3.
More than seven months later, the Huskers scored a crucial win in a fierce in-state recruiting battle.
“I’ve known this in my heart for probably a week or so,” Henrich told the Journal Star. “I’ve had this feeling for a while, but I knew for sure probably at the beginning of this week or so.
“I just honestly think it’s the perfect fit for me. I love everything about the place. The coaching staff is incredible, the strength coach is incredible.”
Henrich is arguably Nebraska’s top overall target for the 2019 cycle and considered by 247Sports to be the No. 87 overall player in the nation and the fourth-best inside linebacker prospect. His list of suitors matches that sort of lofty ranking, making him one of the most sought-after prep players from this state in recent years.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder fielded scholarship offers from well-respected programs spanning the coasts — Oregon to Texas A&M to LSU to Florida to Notre Dame. He had the opportunity to play for his dad’s former employer (Iowa) and his mom’s alma mater (Iowa State).
He considered Wisconsin, the current power in the Big Ten West and a program that poached defensive tackle Bryson Williams from Lincoln in the 2018 class, until the end, calling the Badgers his other finalist.
But Ruud and Nebraska held off all comers, marking a significant win for the talented first-time assistant coach, who also happens to be NU’s all-time leading tackler and, now, Henrich’s future position coach.
“We talk a ton and we have a great relationship,” Henrich said earlier in the summer. “I really like him as a person and as a coach.”
Nebraska needed to mount a comeback to land Henrich, too.
He first received a scholarship offer from the home-state school in June 2017, well before Mike Riley’s final season as head coach began. By the time Riley and his staff were fired in November, the Huskers were, at best, an afterthought in Henrich’s recruitment.
“No disrespect to the old Nebraska staff at all, but I really don’ t think I would have gone there if they were still there,” Henrich said. “I didn’t know much about the new coaching staff when they got there. I just knew obviously they did great at Central Florida.
But Frost, Ruud and the rest of NU’s staff set about closing the gap almost immediately. While they frantically put together a top-25 2018 class, Ruud made himself a fixture at Burke. He visited the school every week in January and countless other times.
“Every single time he could, to be honest,” Henrich said. “The whole staff is just all really genuine people and really good people. I believe in their process. It just seems like the perfect fit.”
Henrich is not only a big win because he’s a highly rated in-state prospect, but because the Huskers need help at linebacker. He and three-star Jackson Hannah (Nashville, Tennessee) are slated to join a position group that is set to enter 2019 with Mohamed Barry and Will Honas as seniors and Avery Roberts as a junior. While the possibility certainly exists that other underclassmen or class of 2018 or 2019 players could eventually wind up also playing the position, Henrich and Hannah will have every opportunity to push for playing time early in their careers.
He is the 13th verbal commitment in NU’s 2019 class and the fourth from Nebraska, joining athletes Garrett Nelson (Scottsbluff) and Garrett Snodgrass (York) and defensive lineman Ethan Piper (Norfolk Catholic).
The class is now ranked No. 27 in the nation and No. 7 by the 247Sports composite.
The first people to find out: Henrich’s parents. Then he called up his future head coach.
“He was ecstatic,” Henrich said. “He seemed like he was bouncing off the walls.”
Same when he called Ruud immediately after.
So too, it’s safe to say, are the fans in a football-crazed state that get to watch a talented young man from within its own borders help in a massive rebuilding project.