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Steven M. Sipple: Why Ochaun Mathis' mom trusted NU; Chinander's wisdom; and Toure's rise

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Big 12 Media Days Football

TCU defensive end Ochaun Mathis leans in from the microphone to listen to a question during Big 12 media days in July of 2021 in Arlington, Texas.

Things I know, and things I think I know:  

Ochaun Mathis, the gifted pass rusher who starred at TCU, soon will live full time outside of the state of Texas for the first time in his 23 years of existence. 

As he narrowed his list of potential new places to play, his mom, Ochana Daniels, looked for people whom she could trust with her son's well-being. 

She saw that in Nebraska's football program. 

"They were so attentive about every little aspect of the program," Daniels said of the family's April 7-9 visit. "I mean, the entire staff met us and I was like, 'Wow, this is totally different than any official or unofficial visit we've ever had.'

"It was the whole program. We were overwhelmed." 

Overwhelmed in a good way, obviously, because the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Mathis, of Manor, Texas, ultimately picked Nebraska over Texas. In mid-February, he also had USC, Ole Miss and Penn State on his list of finalists. 

Bottom line, Nebraska did an excellent job of recruiting one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal. 

By the way, during our 15-minute interview Sunday, Daniels never once mentioned the name, image and likeness element of her son's decision. For those who portray Mathis' situation as a bidding war between Nebraska and Texas, her words suggest there were other key factors. 

"Ochaun's big brother (Bruce) is on the autism spectrum, and Nebraska was so accommodating to that fact," Daniels said. "They included him in everything with Ochaun. I was like, 'Wow, no other program has ever done that.' I could see the happiness it brought Ochaun because him and his brother are so very close."

Daniels teared up as she spoke. Thing is, she made it clear that this was Mathis' decision. But he wanted to make sure his family was OK with it, she said. She emphasized the spiritual part of his journey and assured Mathis that she and the rest of the family would be fine with him playing relatively far from home. She thinks he felt relief and comfort to hear her say that. 

Along those lines, some people used Texas' proximity to Manor — the campus is about 20 minutes away — as part of their pitch to try to keep Mathis in the state. There's no doubt that his Texas roots created pressure on her son to attend UT, Daniels said.

"That's why I had to sit down with him and have that conversation (about potentially leaving)," she said. "I told him, 'Honey, I'm going to be fine and the family's going to be fine.'"

She liked Lincoln's friendly feel and how safe it felt. Also, get this: Mathis' entire family was on hand for a film session with Nebraska defensive line coach Mike Dawson. The coach pointed out a few shortcomings in Mathis' game. He appreciated it because he uses critiques to improve, Daniels said. 

She really enjoyed the film study. 

"Quiet, looking, observing," she said of the scene in the room. "Bruce looked at Ochaun and was like, 'This is what you need.'

"That Friday, I saw a sparkle, and Ochaun started asking questions," she added. "We were having one-on-one discussions that were really serious. I was like, 'OK, let me sit up and give him some eye contact.' I saw that he internalized the information that was given to him and turned it into something positive. 

"There was a strong positive about the program. He was like, 'Mama, this is it.'" 

* Something Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander told me recently rolled through my mind as Mathis' big decision loomed.  

The Big Ten — perhaps more so than any other conference — resembles the NFL in a few different ways.  

"I'm not saying you can walk a Big Ten team right into the NFL," the 42-year-old coach said. "But body-type wise, the way the game's played, the way the game's coached — it resembles a lot of the NFL." 

If Mathis can put excellent play on film in the Big Ten, it may mean more to NFL personnel officials than it would mean in the Big 12. 

Put it this way, the Big Ten had 48 players drafted this year, 23 more than the Big 12.

Of course, the SEC led the way with 65.

* Here's hoping former Nebraska receiver Samori Toure gets a long look in Green Bay. He was the third receiver taken by the Packers in the draft (seventh round, 258th overall), and will have to overcome long odds to make the roster. But the Pack quickly will find that Toure approaches his work like a professional. He immediately made an impression on his Husker teammates in that regard last spring. He also has excellent hands and speed. 

He's a prime example of how the transfer portal can benefit a player. He arrived in Lincoln from Montana wanting to prove he could excel at the Power Five level. Mission accomplished. Now, a new mission.

I'm guessing Aaron Rodgers will like this guy. 

Impress the boss, Samori. Always try to impress the boss. 

* There is no doubt Nebraska coach Scott Frost deserves ample credit for the idea to switch Cam Jurgens to center (from tight end) early in his college career. There was risk, and it clearly paid off handsomely for the young man from Beatrice.

In fact, both Jurgens and Cam Taylor-Britt are prime examples of players who developed their craft in Nebraska's program with the help of strong coaching. Hard to argue otherwise. Especially now. 

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