Nebraska kicker/punter Alex Henery's importance for the Cornhuskers has been a key component of the team's success this season.
But his value for the defense was acknowledged Sunday when he received a Blackshirt as the Nebraska defensive unit prepares for Wednesday's Pacific Life Holiday Bowl game against Arizona.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini told reporters in San Diego that Henery's value to his defense has been undeniable. Henery has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line on 28 punts with only six touchbacks.
And the 175-pound Henery, despite being the smallest of the Blackshirts, said he understands his part in the unit's success this season.
“I guess,” he told the Omaha World-Herald. “I can see how I contribute to the defense, if you pin them in deep. It was something that I didn't really expect, so it was kind of weird.”
Henery's size made for some problems with his new reward, Pelini told the Lincoln Journal-Star.
“Yeah, we had to tie it up (in the back)," Pelini said, laughing. "We went with the triple-extra small. And it was still a little big on him."
Nebraska fans certainly understand Henery's value. He was arguably the second-most popular player on the team behind only All-American defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And it was noticeable at Cornhusker games whenever Henery was called upon to kick or punt this season.
The Cornhuskers have produced punters like Kyle Larson, Sam Koch and Bill LaFleur and kickers like Kris Brown and Josh Brown over the last few years.
None of them has ever produced in both kicking and punting as consistently as Henery, who should get a shot at the NFL at either position -- or maybe even both.