Wednesday, Sep 21 at 12:13 PM
Given the bond he’s developed with Nebraska assistant coach Tim Beck, it’s not surprising that Steele senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong committed to the Cornhuskers after making an official visit to Nebraska last weekend.
Really, it would have been a surprise if Armstrong had cast his lot with another school. In the end, he picked Nebraska over Southern Mississippi, his sentimental favorite.
“It was a tough decision, but I just feel that I fit in well with Nebraska,” Armstrong said Tuesday. “I just felt like I was home. I felt like I could spend the next four or five years of my life there.”
Armstrong is the third Greater San Antonio quarterback to commit to a Football Bowl Subdivision school. Josh Kern of Clark has committed to Arizona and Trevor Knight of Reagan has committed to Oklahoma.
Armstrong, who committed to the Huskers on Monday, wore a red and white Nebraska warm-up top to school Tuesday and received congratulations from students and teachers wherever he went on campus.
Armstrong was born in Gulfport, Miss., which is about 30 miles from Hattiesburg, home of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. He rooted for Southern Miss as a kid and imagined himself playing for the Golden Eagles someday.
But in the end, Armstrong was blown away by what he saw and felt during his visit to the Nebraska campus in Lincoln. Armstrong arrived Friday and watched the Huskers beat Washington 51-38 on Saturday before a crowd of 85,110 at Memorial Stadium.
“It was incredible,” Armstrong said. “I talked with the coaches and had a great time with the players. I got to see the offense for myself. I got to see everything in person instead of over the Internet.
“The fans are incredible. They knew everything about me. That’s crazy. I could just see myself playing there. I made my decision Monday. I had been leaning toward Nebraska from the start. I like Southern Mississippi, but I just felt that I fit in at Nebraska.”
His host during his visit was Nebraska freshman running back Aaron Green, a Madison graduate who ran for a touchdown and caught a TD pass in Saturday’s game. Green’s brother, Andrew, is a sophomore cornerback for the Huskers.
Armstrong a dual threat
Nebraska started recruiting Armstrong, who is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, last year when he helped guide Steele to the Class 5A Division II state championship. He improved steadily throughout the season and came of age in district victories against New Braunfels and Judson.
Armstrong passed for the winning touchdown against the Unicorns and ran for the decisive two-point conversion in a double-overtime thriller against the Rockets.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, Armstrong’s skills as a passer and runner made it difficult for defenses to concentrate solely on stopping blue-chip running back Malcolm Brown.
Armstrong completed 88 of 168 passes, with only two interceptions, for 1,372 yards and 19 TDs as a junior. He passed for 135 yards and one TD in Steele’s 24-21 victory against Denton Guyer in the state final.
“I’ve been around some pretty good quarterbacks, both playing and coaching through the years, and I’ve never seen anybody spin the football like him,” Steele coach Mike Jinks said, referring to the tight spiral Armstrong throws.
Armstrong left no doubt that his rapport with Beck, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was a key factor in his decision to commit to the Huskers.
“Coach Beck has recruited me from the beginning,” Armstrong said. “From day one, he and I have been clicking. He’s been straight up with me, and letting me know that he wants me to be one of the quarterbacks to go up there.”
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on recruits until they sign a letter of intent.
TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, UCLA, Oregon, Missouri and Kansas were among some of the other schools that offered Armstrong a scholarship.
Steele 4-0 this season
With Armstrong leading the way, Steele has gotten off to a 4-0 this season and extended its winning streak to 17 games. Last year’s state champs started out 1-2 before winning 13 consecutive games.
Armstrong has been a model of balance this season, passing for 372 yards and five TDs without an interception and running for 337 yards and two TDs.
“It’s a good feeling to know where I’m going,” Armstrong said. “Now it’s time to really focus to getting to this next state championship and winning that, and then focus on getting to college.”
Steele, No. 5 in the Associated Press Class 5A poll, plays Austin Stephen F. Austin in its last nondistrict game Friday night in Austin.
Jinks, a standout quarterback at Judson in the late 1980s who went on to star at Angelo State, said it’s been fun to watch Armstrong develop.
“We always saw the raw potential,” Jinks said. “But once he got going and got in a rhythm, and really started to understand what we wanted out of him and understand our system, he put up some pretty good numbers. He also made good decisions, week in and week out.
“He made big plays, i.e. New Braunfels, i.e. Judson, i.e. Guyer. It seemed that every big, close game that we had, No. 10 made it. I’ve enjoyed watching him play and I look forward to the next 12 weeks. Then Nebraska can have him.”
Steele would play 16 games if it advanced to the state final again.
“A lot of people, including us as a coaching staff and our team, feel that we can play 16 weeks,” Jinks said. “And Tommy is a big reason why.”