MOBILE, Ala. — Nebraska’s Nate Gerry made quite a name for himself as a hard-hitting safety who always seemed to be finding the ball. He also found a way to bring some negative attention to his name and his school over the past few seasons.
So far, Gerry has tried his best to clean things up at the Senior Bowl and take advantage of his fresh start as he approaches an NFL career. It’s the best way in his mind to follow up after a disappointing finish to his mostly strong career in Lincoln.
Gerry was suspended for the final game of his Huskers career — one interception short of the school record, too — and was forced to watch his team lose to Tennessee, 38-24, in the Music City Bowl. The suspension was over an academic violation in which Gerry told Shutdown Corner he “had a class predicament” after he thought he was “going to get a bone thrown [his] way” but did not.
“I was disappointed in myself,” he said. “ … I missed a chunk of my group project and I came up three credits short from an online class.”
Gerry flew down to the bowl game on his own dime along with his family and tried to offer up whatever support he could without being able to play.
“I wanted to be there to support those guys,” he said.
But it also wasn’t the first time this happened. Gerry also was suspended for the opening game this past season against Fresno State, which the team deemed a “team violation.” He would not specify what the violation was but said that he made a “poor decision” and learned from the experience, which might suggest that it was not related to classwork.
Huskers message boards lit up when Gerry’s suspension was announced, and many expressed their disappointment in how his career ended. Gerry said he understood fans’ reactions to the news, but he feels most of them had proper perspective on the matter.
“You just have to swallow the bullet sometimes,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think a lot of them appreciated the work that I put in over my four years.”
NFL teams ultimately might not care if a prospect is academically motivated, but it also represents a lack of responsibility to some teams that will view the multiple suspensions as a negative — and they’ll dig to find out what the first one was for. Gerry said he’s trying to convince them that it won’t be the type of problem that leaks into his pro career.
“I just have to take responsibility, and I believe I can and have,” he said. “I’m trying to show teams I am responsible.”
Bowl games were not Gerry’s finest hour. He also was ejected from Nebraska’s 37-29 bowl win last season over UCLA because of a targeting penalty, just as he was in the 2015 game against Iowa, when the Huskers’ defense broke down defensively in the second half of that loss without him on the field.
But the 6-2, 214-pound Gerry also put a lot of good tape in over his career, the past three years as a starter. He was considered the quarterback of the Huskers’ defense, able to make calls and get everyone lined up properly.
Gerry played deep often in Nebraska’s scheme that called for a lot of two-high looks that employed a lot of cover-4 zone, but he also dropped down into the box and used his big frame to help corral opponents’ run games. Over his career, he made 12 interceptions — including two against Wisconsin this season after Gerry boasted in the week leading up to the game that they were going to beat the Badgers.
In a league where bigger safeties are all the rage, especially those who can play both the run and pass, Gerry stands as an intriguing prospect if he tests well and can cut down on his missed tackles.
“I think that’s what makes my game versatile,” Gerry said. “I can do a little of both [playing deep and in the box]. I am pretty comfortable doing either. I think that’s what the NFL coaches like about me.”
When Gerry strode across the Senior Bowl weigh-in stage on Tuesday, it was impossible not to take note of his rocked-up physique and very good measurables. He credits his strong frame to “growing up lifting a lot of hay bails” back in South Dakota. “You build up your strength,” he said. “My first job was working on the farm with my buddies.”
Working with the Chicago Bears’ coaching staff on the North Team, Gerry has put his best foot forward. He and Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu, another big safety at 6-4 and 219 pounds, have been two of the clear standouts of the week’s practices at their position. Gerry intercepted Pitt’s Nathan Peterman, perhaps the best QB in Mobile this week, in Thursday’s red-zone sessions, which got his defensive teammates riled up.
Gerry has received an invitation to the NFL scouting combine and will leave Mobile next week and start prep for that at Pete Bommarito’s training facility in Florida. Gerry said he believes scouts have questioned his quickness and straight-line speed and that he’s anxious to answer questions about that for NFL scouts.
“A lot of scouts are up in the air with my running ability,” he said. “A lot of them don’t think I have linear speed, so I am pretty excited for the combine. That’s one thing I am looking forward to, to prove that I can run with my size.”
They also might come armed with questions about his multiple suspensions. Gerry’s reputation is that he’s a hard-working player, but NFL teams might want additional information to feel comfortable about spending a high draft pick on him.
“That’s what this process is about,” Gerry said, “and I don’t intend to leave any questions [unanswered].”
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