LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Tyson Broekemeier walked on at Nebraska as a quarterback in 2011, endured three knee surgeries his first two years and didn't appear in a game his first four seasons in the program.
Had he not horned his way into a backup punter tryout last year, his career might have ended without him ever playing a down. His unexpected opportunity came in the fourth quarter of a tight game against BYU last week when he was called on to serve as holder and punter in place of the injured Sam Foltz.
Foltz's misfortune allowed Broekemeier - who's from the small town of Aurora, 70 miles west of Lincoln - to live the dream of many Nebraska boys and play for the Big Red in front of 90,000 fans at Memorial Stadium.
''I guess just waiting until this fifth year to get in the game has been totally worth it,'' he said. ''I hope the best for `Foltzy' coming back, but you have to be ready.''
Foltz, one of the Big Ten's best punters, sprained his left (non-kicking) ankle when a teammate was blocked into him as he punted early in the third quarter. Broekemeier took over as holder on two of Drew Brown's extra-point kicks.
He punted for the first time with Nebraska leading 28-24 early in the fourth and boomed a 48-yarder that was downed at the BYU 12. He punted again on the Cornhuskers' next possession, getting off a 33-yarder that was fair caught at the BYU 33. The Huskers ended up losing 33-28 on BYU's last-play touchdown pass.
Foltz is week-to-week, coach Mike Riley said, and if he isn't ready for Saturday's home game against South Alabama, Broekemeier will be the punter and holder again.
''I was impressed with his nerves basically going in the game and making a couple of plays,'' Riley said. ''He flirted a little bit too much with the sideline on that last one, but he did a good job. So if we indeed punt with him, I think he'll do a good job. We'll probably do it differently than we did it with Sam, but that's OK. We'll have to adjust.''
He's been mostly a scout-team quarterback, though he's not listed at that position on the depth chart. He made the travel rosters in past years because he signaled plays to the offense from the sideline.
''He's such a good athlete, and he could have gone somewhere else and gotten a lot of playing time,'' said his high school coach, Randy Huebert. ''He wanted to give it a try at Nebraska. He'll do anything to help the team.''
In addition to be Aurora High's star quarterback, Broekemeier handled the punting and was pretty good at it. So when an injury sidelined Nebraska's backup punter last year, he asked former football operations director Jeff Jamrog to give him a look.
''We were doing quarterback drills and I looked over and they had some guys punting, and then they had a guy trying out after practice,'' Broekemeier said. ''I went up to coach Jamrog and said, `Hey, dude, I can punt.' He kind of laughed and said, `I bet you can, bud.'
''I went out there and, after five little warmups, I hit a couple pretty big ones and got their attention.''