Germany’s Nouredin Nouili earning his way at Nebraska

Nebraska Cornhuskers football is one of the most tradition-rich programs in the NCAA. Much like Notre Dame’s “Rudy”, the Cornhuskers have a long history of unlikely heroes making clutch plays for the team.

Nebraska’s long-standing history of walk-ons includes NFL alumni Andy Janovich, Spencer Long, John Parrella, and many others. The newest walk-on to make an impact is as improbable as any other. German lineman Nouredin Nouili is the latest in a long line of walk ons to be honored by the program, as head coach Scott Frost has awarded the European longshot a scholarship:

The 6’4″ 315 pound lineman has taken a long winding road to earn a scholarship in one of college football’s top conferences. Growing up in Frankfurt, the lineman with Tunisian family roots started playing football for the Wetterrau Bulls and Hanau Hornets in Germany. Later, the big man came to the United States, joining Lincoln Nebraska-based Norris high school as an exchange student. Initially the move to the US was another adventure for the well-traveled teenager:

“I always wanted to be a foreign exchange student. I’ve lived on three continents by now. I like broadening your horizon and seeing different cultures and how they live. I kind of had the sense that I wanted to go to the United States, because it’s the land of the dreams, and dreams are possible here. I wanted to see how the traditional American family lives and if what you see in the movies — “High School Musical” — or whatever if that’s actually true. It’s not really true. All of the movies are a little overpitched and extreme. I would say some of it is true. Like the high school sports, for example, is a huge deal in the United States.” (via The Journal Star)

After his senior season, Nouili was a highly recruited prospect the young lineman after earning all-state honors as a two-way lineman. After one year of football in the states he chose to accept a scholarship from Colorado State, picking the Rams over South Dakota, Northern Iowa, and North Dakota State. Nouili did get some attention from the nearby Cornhuskers yet did not have a scholarship offer extended to him. Still, the sudden attention caused Nouili to rethink his immediate future.

Nouili at CSU Photo Credit: CSU Sports

“I had not planned to stay (after high school at Norris). I came here just to do my thing basically, but throughout the (high school) football season people started telling me, ‘Hey, you might want to look into seeing if you could stay here because you have the talent.’ Then once I got the offers I was like, ‘I need to talk to my parents.’ (via The Journal Star)

Colorado State coaches knew they had found a gem as the freshman was quickly inserted into the Rams starting lineup. Nouili adjusted to the responsibility playing well in eight games with seven starts. Earning those starts on the line was no easy task, given that Nouili was the first true freshman lineman to start for the Rams since 1996.

However, the personal success at Colorado State didn’t translate to many team wins as the Rams fired their coaching staff following the season. Soon thereafter, Nouili made the tough call of leaving his starting spot in Fort Collins for a chance to walk on with the program he knew all too well.  Missing his experiences and friends in Nebraska he knew wanted to be a part of the Cornhusker program one way or another. Nouili reflects on his career-altering decision going from a starter at CSU to a walk on at Nebraska:

“I came here knowing I was going to the bottom of the bottom, and that’s fine.”

As everyone knows the cream usually rises the to the top. After not playing a snap in 2020 the walk-on has now taken over at guard this season starting five straight games. His play has not gone unnoticed as Nebraska’s coaching staff has been impressed ever since his first spring practice. Head coach Scott Frost on rewarding the German lineman with a scholarship:

“He’s done a great job. He’s been one of the best guys we’ve had upfront since we inserted him. He’s a great story a foreign exchange student who went to Norris and decided he wanted to be back and walked on.”

Nouili at practice Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

The risk of moving back to Lincoln seems to have paid off as the big man has become a crucial part of Nebraska’s offense. Now Nouili and the Cornhuskers look to finish the season on a high note as they have only two games remaining. Looking ahead to 2022, the sophomore is projected to be a key piece of Nebraska’s offensive line next season.

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football