KEARNEY, Neb. – The 62nd annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl will take place in Kearney on Saturday night.
On Tuesday the Shrine Bowl held their media day event at Harmon Park in Kearney. Here are a few storylines and things we learned on Tuesday.
Four future Huskers highlight this year’s Shrine Bowl rosters
The 63rd annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl will feature four Nebraska football walk-ons along with several other Nebraska high school football stars.
On Saturday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s stadium, the future Huskers will show off their talents on a big stage and give Husker fans a taste of their abilities before they arrive at UNL in June. The Shrine Bowl will be on NET at 7 p.m.
Ord kicker Kelen Meyer headlines the North team as a player who could instantly earn a role as Nebraska’s kick-off guy. The North is coached by Kurt Frenzen, Lakeview high school’s head coach.
Husker football walk-ons on the South team consists of former Lincoln Southeast Knights Maddox Burton and Taveon Thompson. Weeping Water offensive lineman Weston Reimer will also be lining up for the South’s head coach Mark McLaughlin, who coaches at Platteview high school.
Each player is excited for the opportunity to spend a week playing football, meeting players from across the state who are just as passionate about the game as they are and playing on a bigger stage.
Buffalo recruit Nolan Gorczyca has had an interesting month
Omaha Roncalli’s Nolan Gorczyca has had an interesting few months. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive lineman has been locked into Buffalo for months.
However, in May, the Bulls head coach Lance Leipold left Buffalo for Kansas. Since then, a flood of Buffalo players have entered the transfer portal and all but one of the coaches on Leipold’s staff has left.
With that said, Gorczyca remains solid to the Bulls and is excited for the opportunity he has this year.
“With a new coach and a lot of things shaking up, I think I have a chance,” Gorczyca said of making the two-deep as a true freshman. “I’m just going to keep working hard in the weight room and on the field and just see how it goes.”
According to the coaches at the game, Gorczyca has been one of the most impressive players in practice for the North squad.
Something that also jumped out about this last year was Gorczyca ran track for the first time instead of playing baseball in the spring. At 290 pounds, he ran the 400-meter dash in 57 seconds. He also qualified for state in the shot put.
Gorczyca hopes to get the chance to play in Memorial Stadium against Nebraska on Sept. 11.
“It would be a really cool experience just to be back,” Gorczyca said. “It would be really cool to be back and finally get the chance to play in Memorial Stadium.”
Cole Payton will get one more chance to shine on Nebraska soil
Omaha Westside quarterback Cole Payton is arguably the highest-profile player in this year’s Shrine Bowl game. The North Dakota State recruit was the 2020 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the year, and he’ll head to Fargo on June 13.
He’s looking forward to the chance to play one more high school football game in the state of Nebraska.
“I don’t think I need to prove anything,” Payton said. “It’s one of those things where I’m going to go out there and have fun with the guys, but definitely compete and try to win. We want to beat the North.”
Payton will head to NDSU where he will be put right into the mix at quarterback for the Bison.
“After Trey Lance declared for the draft they brought in Quincy Patterson from Virginia Tech,” Payton said. “They also brought in a freshman that played a few series this spring. I’m just going to go there and work and learn.”
Omaha Skutt’s Sam Scott ready to begin his Wyoming career
One of the other high-profile recruits in this year’s Shrine Bowl is Omaha Skutt’s Sam Scott, who heads to Wyoming on June 6.
Scott will play running back for the South team but then transition to linebacker once he gets to Laramie.
Getting the chance to play in the Shrine Bowl is also very meaningful to Scott, and he’s looking forward to Saturday.
“I just wanted to play with all different types of kids from around the state,” Scott said. “It’s also done for a great cause for all the kids in the hospital. Just getting to hang out with them and impacting their lives is a huge thing, along with raising money for the hospital as well.”
More than football for Lincoln Southeast’s Maddox Burton
For Burton, a defensive lineman walk-on at Nebraska, playing in the Shrine Bowl means more than the week of three-a-day practices leading up to a game.
Burton has personal experienced with Shriner’s Hospital and the work they do to assist children in healing without placing a financial burden on its patient’s families.
In fact, Burton’s brother Jayden has had over 20 surgeries at the Shriner’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Burton expects his brother to be supporting him from the stands on Saturday.
“It’s special to me,” Burton said. “It’s a big part of my heart just because I love my brother so much. I’m playing this game for him.”
During his visits to Shriner’s, Burton bonded with the other children there.
“I didn’t think any differently because I had a brother just like them,” he said. “I just want to work hard, because I know they can’t work hard. So I might as well play my heart out for them so they can watch me do big things.”
Burton is looking to do big things at the Shrine Bowl on Saturday before going to work with the Huskers on June 14.
Lincoln Southeast’s Taveon Thompson ready to compete
Thompson said he is projected to play wide receiver at Nebraska however, depending on how much weight he gains and his strides during the offseason, he could be moved to defensive back, which he played more often at Southeast.
“I can do the best I can,” Thompson said. “What I do the best, catch the ball, run routes, block for the running backs and block for Cole Payton, our quarterback, do the best I can and go out there and have fun.”
Thompson, like all of the other players, has gotten to meet and learn from Nebraska high school football players from across the state. He’s also learned more about eight-man football with several teammates who are accustomed to playing with three fewer men on the field.
Meeting new players and getting to work with new coaches during the Shrine Bowl will give Thompson and his other three future teammates a taste of what is to come at Nebraska as they settle in.
For now, Thompson is excited to compete with coach McLaughlin and the South team on Saturday.
***This will be the first year the Nebraska Shrine Bowl has played at night since the game moved to Kearney in 2013.
***When Burton found out the news his former teammate Jake Appleget was offered by Nebraska on Tuesday, he was very excited. Burton was actually surprised Appleget hadn’t been offered yet, as he was arguably the top player at times on Lincoln Southeast’s 2020 squad.
***Event organizers are expecting one of their bigger crowds in years at the Shrine Bowl. Early ticket sales have been strong, and they think the crowd could top 4,500 on Saturday night. Kickoff for the game is set for 6 p.m.
***Burton and Thompson, who have grown up together, will be roommates at Nebraska. Both players are excited to be living together and embracing their adventure as Huskers together.