Friday, November 2, 2007

Mortensen eager for Huskers

Linebacker came to KU after recruiting run-around from Nebraska


B-Mac ready for Huskers

Last week Kansas runningback Brandon McAnderson racked up 183 yards and 2 touchdowns against Texas A&M. This weekend B-Mac comes home to face the worst rushing defense in the nation.

Star QB an "Incogni'hawk'"

Though KU enters this Saturday's game as a 19-point favorite over NU, the Hawks aren't walking around campus like rock stars.


Kansas linebacker Joe Mortensen swoops in to tackle Florida International running back A'mod Ned in this file photo from Sept. 22. Strung along during the recruiting process by Nebraska, Mortensen is said to be looking forward to Saturday's game against the Huskers.

Recruiting is so inexact, so unpredictable and so unapologetic, it can sting like an oversized wasp sometimes.

Kansas University linebacker Joe Mortensen was almost that tragic case of a solid football prospect - and equally good person - who completely fell through the cracks. And, right or wrong, almost all of his anger toward his recruiting experience is aimed directly at the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

"Oh yeah," best friend Mike Rivera said. "Every year, he especially looks forward to this game because of that. He always tells me the story about how they did that to him."

The always-intense Mortensen will be more jacked than normal Saturday, when the Jayhawks and Huskers square off at 11:30 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.

That's the way it has been every year for Nebraska week.

By all accounts, Mortensen loves being at KU. His proactive approach to recruiting made it happen, and his determination made it work once he got here.

But the chip has yet to leave his shoulder. Mortensen was a Nebraska recruit who won MVP honors at a summer camp in Lincoln, Neb., before his senior year at Clayton Valley (Calif.) High. He returned home from Nebraska with an oral scholarship offer from former NU coach Frank Solich.

"Joe just came back ecstatic," said Herc Pardi, Mortensen's coach at Clayton Valley High. "I've never seen him happier. He worked extremely hard to get noticed."

Mortensen, who was not made available for comment this week, continued to weigh his options. Schools like Southern California and UCLA started to show interest. Local schools like San Jose State and Fresno State put offers on the table.

All the while, Mortensen took his time while eyeing Nebraska as his probable future home. That's before the bomb was dropped: On Nov. 29, 2003, Nebraska fired Solich despite a 9-3 record.

A prolonged, frustrating coaching search soon followed for the Huskers, while Mortensen continued to wait. Finally, on January 9, 2004 - less than a month before signing day - the Huskers hired Bill Callahan as their new coach.

With any coaching change, recruiting gets dealt a curveball. Prospects are re-evaluated, and scholarships are re-considered.

Somewhere in this process, Mortensen got lost in the shuffle.

"I wrote a letter. I sent a fax. I did a number of things," Pardi said. "(Callahan) didn't return a call."

Nebraska's staff did just enough to, in Mortensen's eyes, keep him hanging on. According to the archives, Mortensen's mother told the recruiting service in mid-January that Nebraska asked Mortensen to consider coming to Lincoln for an official visit. A follow-up call, though, never came. Mortensen never visited.

On Jan. 28, 2004 - eight days before signing day - Mortensen told Rivals he received a call from then-Nebraska assistant Scott Downing, who asked him to sit tight while they considered whom to offer their final scholarships to.

By Feb. 1 - three days before signing day - Mortensen still hadn't heard from Nebraska. He started to consider other options, but by then most recruiting classes had filled up, and Mortensen was in no-man's land, angry and hurt.

"That was very disappointing," Pardi said. "I've been involved in high schools a total of over 30 years. It was the most disappointing moment for a player that I had ever experienced."

Meanwhile, KU signed an incomplete, 18-person class on Feb. 4, 2004. At the press conference to announce the signings, KU coach Mark Mangino declared that a few scholarships remained and that recruiting for the 2004 class would continue.

One of those vacant scholarships was the result of Miami linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who committed to Kansas but instead signed with South Florida.

Mortensen soon caught word of KU's ongoing search and went to the Internet to read about Mompremier's change of heart. He immediately contacted KU's coaches, and the courtship soon started.

"Joe looked good on tape," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "He is a tough kid, played hard. We had some other people that we were recruiting. (We) got tired of waiting, and Joe was available, and he wanted to come."

Mortensen signed on Feb. 14, 2004 - 10 days after signing day gobbled up most of the scholarships across the country. He admitted at the time that "it was pretty scary," but he was glad he was able to get a chance to play Big 12 Conference football - partially because of an annual game against Nebraska.

"I was really (mad) when that happened," Mortensen said in 2004. "We're playing them this year, and you better believe I'll be ready for that game."

Mortensen, now KU's starting middle linebacker, leads the team with 73 tackles (11 for a loss) heading into Saturday's game. Back at Clayton Valley High, Mortensen's story is an inspiration that Pardi preaches to his players. Newspaper clippings of Mortensen are taped to the walls of the weight room. KU's nationally televised games have been a hit back in California.

"When one door or two closed, this door opened up," Pardi said, "and Joe just fully took advantage."

Mangino, for one, is glad for how the ball bounced nearly four years ago. Out of the passed-over cracks, KU ended up digging up a hard-hitter who has been key to the Jayhawks' 8-0 start in 2007.

"When he came in, we thought he was kind of an engaging guy, kind of a hard-nosed guy that we're looking for," Mangino said. "It's history from there."


Ryan Gerstner 10 years, 6 months ago

Well, count me as one Jayhawk fan that's certainly glad to have Joe as a Jayhawk!

Seth Peattie 10 years, 6 months ago

Make 'em pay, JOE. Nebraska can ...... SUCK IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Robka 10 years, 6 months ago

Joe I'm sorry you were left hanging by Billy C. and his staff, but that in no way is a reflection of Nebraskan's thoughts or the University of Nebraska. BC has been leaving us Cornhusker fans in limbo for the past 4 years, so we completely understand your pain. As a Nebraska fan that has been to Lawrence several times, I am glad to see KU winning games and after Saturday I will be pulling for you guys to take the North. Mangino has done an excellent job and he is winning the way Nebraska used to, with hard working players that are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the team. Good luck Saturday and I hope to see you all in Lincoln next year to welcome our new coaching staff.


10 years, 6 months ago

Nice post, Robka. It will be interesting to see who you guys are able to bring in for your new head coach. At least this time around, you won't have to fight the stigma associated with just having fired a coach after a 9-3 season. Enjoy the game on Saturday, but not too much ;)

Kevin Long 10 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the comment Robka. I don't hate the Huskers like I do Mizzwho. I just have many years of a one sided score that sticks in my memory. I do actually hope that they do get a good new coach and rebuild. I want the North to rise above the South, which I am starting to see already.

Anybody know where I can get a cool KU background on my myspace? I found one but it was terrible.

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 6 months ago

there are a couple good desktop backgrounds here. I use the Big Jayhawk

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 6 months ago

Don't forget to keep voting for Reesing

Kevin Long 10 years, 6 months ago

Thanks plastic, I do like the big hawk.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

Interesting to google Brouce Mompremier, and find out that he is USF's leading tackler, and obviously a chunk of the reason why they have improved this year. It would be nice to finish better than USF as well in a bit of a subplot to this story.

jawk1 10 years, 6 months ago

Man, dude really got rail-roaded with the recruiting ordeal. I guess it really shows why Callahan and staff are in the position they are in right now. Good things happen to good people and everything happens for a reason.

I hope"Jayhawk Joe" Mortenson blows up NU tomorrow. Hope the dude just goes off. Go ahead Joe, get ya 17 tackles, 5tfls and a pick(and get your buddy Rivera to go with ya). Go Hawks.

seattlehawk_78 10 years, 6 months ago

Try to tatoo the QB a few times to get Callahan's attention.

scootja32 10 years, 6 months ago

I can't believe he's only a sophmore . This LB crew is gonna tear it up next year.

34_5_20_nbaTitle 10 years, 6 months ago

Yeah i'd say ol Ganz better be ready to take some live game hits. You can practice all you want but there is nothing like game time hits. So hey Joe, do your thing.

Kevin Sontag 10 years, 6 months ago

Wahoo! The game tomorrow is going to be in HD! Channel 236! Woot!

CasperCorps 10 years, 6 months ago

I don't think Robka is a guy, from the heartfelt posting I believe its a girl. If you are a guy I'm sorry. Nice posting regardless..

Chad Dexter 10 years, 6 months ago

Joe Mortensen is a redshirt junior, FYI.

I wonder why they didn't allow him to talk to the media this week. Were they afraid he would give the Huskers bulletin board material?

Roy Scherff 10 years, 6 months ago

Nice post Robka, as a Missourian, who grew up in Nebraska and is a huge Jayhawk fan I too am looking forward to seeing who will be coaching at Nebraska next year. In the meantime I want say hey Joe and the jayhawks to have their best game yet tomorrow.

troutsee 10 years, 6 months ago

I hope we hang 50 on them like they've done to us for what seems like centuries. And don't kid yourselves, their fans loved every minute of it. I was at a game in Lincoln one time and the score was 35-0 a half time and we did not have a first down. On the first drive of the 2nd half, we had third and one on our own 29, and their fanatics were screaming at the top of their lungs. You would have thought the score was tied and there was 30 seconds to go in the game and we were on their one yard line. I want to run it up if we have the chance. And let their team know what a hostile crowd sounds like.

JBurtin 10 years, 6 months ago

Unfortunately that's just a typo, he really is a junior.

Still, that means all three starting linebackers will be back next year, and the depth will have had a year to deveop behind them.

Looks like we'll be solid at CB and Safety also.

McClinton is leaving us of course, but Hasselhorst and Blakesley soften that blow.

So if we can just pull a true pass rushing D end from the Juco ranks this year, (David Bedford comes to mind) then we can be even better next year.

The fun's not over after this year folks!

chazzychef 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure that Joe and all of us in Lawrence are pretty damn happy he didn't end up in Lincoln.

Kirk 10 years, 6 months ago

Party's over for Nebraska. They'll never come all they way back.

William James 10 years, 6 months ago

Hey guys. You remember last year before the Nebraska game, Husker fans got on here and were runnin off at the mouth about how 05 was a fluke, congrats on winning 1 out of 37, and your gonna get spanked this year in Lincoln.
Robka-Where was your gentlemanly post last year before the game? I see, when you think you have a chance you run your mouth. When you know there is hell to pay, you try to act gentlemanly. You and all your Husker buddies better prepare for the hell we are about to unleash on your state. Im not just talking about tommorrow, Im talking about the next decade and beyond. Get ready...........

10 years, 6 months ago

To be fair to Robka, unless he started another account, it looks like he just joined today. I do remember those posts, fabio. After last season, are we 1 out of 38? If you look at the all-time series, we have a long way to go before we are close to being even with them in the 'W' column. That being said, let's start a LONG string of victories against them tomorrow!

BigXIIForever 10 years, 6 months ago

Did anyone read this article? I was in tears it was so GOOD and funny.

CasperCorps 10 years, 6 months ago

Robka reminds kinda like Rebecca.. Its just like the new way parents are coming up with spellings for their kids names.. Or its short for Rob Kansas..Anyways.......................................... Rockem Hawks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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