Ex-Cougar closing career as Nebraska receiver

Nebraska senior wideout Levi Falck turns upfield after catching a pass against the Gophers.

By now, Levi Falck could be a couple years into a business career. Instead, he’s still playing football in his sixth year of college.

That’s because the 2016 Centennial graduate achieved his dream of competing in the Big Ten. He’s been a Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver the last two seasons, after graduating from University of South Dakota (USD).

“It’s been exactly what I wanted, the experiences, playing at Memorial Stadium, and being around these guys and these coaches,” said the 24-year-old athlete.

“I’ve got the rest of my life to put on a suit and go to work. To delay that for two years so I can play more football, it’s well worth it.”

And Falck is not just suiting up. He’s been catching passes every game for two seasons. Especially gratifying for him was playing against the Minnesota Gophers in Minneapolis. He snagged four passes for 36 yards in a 30-23 loss to the Gophers.

“I always wanted to play for the Gophers, whether football or baseball, when I was a kid,” he said. “So, to get to play on that field that I went to as a kid and watched Eric Decker play, I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”

He had a rooting gallery of about 150 friends and family, many of whom congregated by the team bus after the game. “My mom brought a bunch of friends and family,” he said.

Falck has caught 14 passes from Adrian Martinez for 198 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown against Michigan in a 32-29 loss and a 43-yard gainer against Purdue in a 28-23 loss. The Cornhuskers are 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big Ten.

In 2020, he had 13 catches for 122 yards. Against Purdue, he had five catches for 39 yards and blocked a punt. 

Falck came out of nowhere to earn his spot at both USD and Nebraska.

At Centennial, Falck’s sophomore and junior football seasons were wiped out by separate knee injuries. He played wide receiver his senior year and, still not 100% healthy, caught “about 30 passes,” he recalls, on a 4-5 team. His best sport was baseball, playing shortstop. 

Falck signed with South Dakota State for baseball, after hitting .510 with 25 stolen bases as a senior with the Cougars, but liked football better and opted to walk on at South Dakota. Nobody was recruiting him, but his close friend Tyler Peterson, a Cougar grad playing basketball at USD, talked to the football coaches about giving him a look.

Falck had a solid career with the USD Coyotes, snagging 70 passes for 774 yards and two touchdowns in 24 games over three seasons, after one redshirt season. His 2019 season was shortened by injuries, and the NCAA granted him an extra year of eligibility — meaning he still had two seasons if he wanted them.

He did, provided he could catch on with a major college team. Having graduated, with a degree in kinesiology and sport science, from USD, he was free to join another program.  

Falck liked his chances to make the jump from the lower level of Division I to the top level, largely because USD played a Big Eight team, Kansas State, in 2018, and he caught 11 passes for 140 yards. 

He sent out “about 100 emails” to coaches around the country with a link to his highlights. The only one to respond was Nebraska, coached by Scott Frost. Falck has made sure they were not sorry to give him a chance.

“I had a lot of confidence I’d be able to come in and play, but I did surprise myself a little, to make an impact right away,” he said. “Especially coming in late, in the summer, and missing spring practice and winter conditioning.”

Most of his catches are mid-range, across the middle passes. “I’m not the fastest guy, but I can hold my own. The Nebraska strength coaches really worked with me on improving my speed.” The main difference in D-1, he said, is how much bigger everyone is, not just the linemen but the linebackers and defensive backs.

Falck, by the way, is just the second Centennial graduate to play major college football. The first was Jeff Kwapick, also at Nebraska, a three-year starter at offensive tackle in the 1970s.

While Nebraska has slipped  from its glory days (like when Kwapick played), the fans there are still crazy about the team, Falck said. Crowds are huge and enthusiastic. When players make appearances, wearing their jerseys, they are besieged with admiring fans who want photos and autographs.

Falck, working on his master’s degree in business at Nebraska, will conclude his college football career Friday, Nov. 26, when the Cornhuskers host Iowa at 12:30 p.m. After that, he said, “I can see myself in sales, or coaching football. But right now, my goal is to make it to the NFL or Canadian Football League.”

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