CHEROKEE, Iowa | Scholarship offers came, but the tug of continuing a family tradition played a huge part in Ben Lingenfelter’s decision to walk on to the University of Nebraska football program.
Lingenfelter, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound lineman from Cherokee High School, will be announced as one of the players planning to join Nebraska’s walk-on program on National Signing Day Wenesday.
Although he played his final two high school seasons at Cherokee, Lingenfelter is a Nebraska native and started high school at Neligh-Oakdale. The family moved to Iowa when his mother, Kimberly, became school superintendent.
Ben will be the sixth member of his family to play for the Huskers after turning down offers from South Dakota, Northern Iowa and Tulane.
“One of the big reasons I picked Nebraska is for the engineering degree because the other schools don’t offer what I was looking for and Nebraska does,” said Lingenfelter, a 4.0 student who wants to be an engineer. “The opportunity to play in the Big Ten on the big stage is pretty exciting.”
The Lingenfelters from Plainview, Nebraska, are a familiar group to the Nebraska football program. It started when Raymond Lingenfelter, Ben’s grandfather, logged time on the NU freshman team but decided to join the military during World War II since he was unable to attend the Rose Bowl in 1941.
Bob, Ben’s uncle, experienced the most success among the Lingenfelter clan. The hulking 6-foot-7, 277-pound lineman was an all-stater for Coach Roger Stafford at Plainview High School, then spent three seasons as a left tackle for the Huskers, earning first-team All-Big Eight and honorable mention All-America honors in 1976.
A seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1977, Bob Lingenfelter spent three seasons with the Browns and Minnesota Vikings. He was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Another uncle, Bruce Lingenfelter, walked on at Nebraska in 1979. Ben’s cousin, Newt (Bob’s son), was a walk-on in 2002 and went on to earn a scholarship in 2005 while Luke – Ben’s older brother – walked on in 2009, playing in two games over five years.
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Ben Lingenfelter said he got a walk-on spot during a visit for the Nebraska-Minnesota game in November. Lingenfelter could play either offensive or defensive line.
“One of the earliest things I remember about Nebraska is my cousin Newt’s Senior Day,” Lingenfelter said. “That was one of my earlier memories of going to a game. Then when my brother Luke played there, we went to all the home games.”
During his visit, he met with defensive line coach John Parrella, but they also discussed the possibility of him playing offensive line.
“I don’t have a preference,” said Lingenfelter, a first-team Iowa Newspaper Association all-state pick last fall. “It just depends on the day.”
Kenny Wilhite, another NU assistant, oversees the walk-on program and made Lingenfelter the offer.
“It was tough, I had the offers from the other schools and I still had to consider those things,” Lingenfelter said. “It was definitely something I had to think about but I think I made the right decision. It’s something that’s been on my mind and something you work towards, too. A lot of kids growing up in Nebraska dream of being a Husker but it’s pretty special to be one of the kids that gets to make it happen.”
The son of Burt and Kimberly Lingenfelter will become the third lineman from Cherokee to play Division I football. Brothers Brock Dagel (Iowa State) and Stetson Dagel (South Dakota) are the other two.
“I’ve met with Brock and Stetson a little bit and talked to them about things,” Lingenfelter said. “Their younger sister is actually in my class so they come to a lot of events for her so I see them there and talk to them here and there.”
Lingenfelter charted 63 solo tackles, including 13 for loss and seven sacks last fall. He is also a starter in basketball, averaging 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, and placed fourth in the discus at the Class 2A state track meet last spring.