LONGMONT — Eli Sullivan refused to give up on his dream of playing Division-I football.
The Longmont Trojans senior waited as long as he could and explored every option.
It was worth the wait.
During an official visit the weekend before Wednesday's national signing day, Sullivan was offered the opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at the University of Nebraska. Back in the lobby of Longmont High School just days later, he signed his national letter of intent and officially became a Division-I athlete.
"It's D-I football, baby," said Sullivan, who had scholarship offers from Division-II programs. "That's always been a dream of mine. It doesn't feel real yet but my coaches put me in the best spot to get this opportunity. It was kind of a last-minute thing but I fell in love with Nebraska when I was out there and I couldn't be more proud to be wearing red."
Among of Nebraska's most hallowed traditions, the Cornhuskers' personalized walk-on program symbolizes the hard-working, blue-collar attitude that prevails throughout the state. For years it has given non-scholarship athletes, mostly from rural areas of Nebraska, a roster spot and the chance to practice and play with their home state team.
One of nine freshmen to enter this year's preferred walk-on program and just one of two out-of-state recruits, Sullivan will be guaranteed a roster spot on day one of camp and the chance to earn a scholarship at some point in his career. Sullivan, who played multiple positions on offense and defense in high school, said he doesn't know where he may line up on the field. Just happy to have made it, he doesn't really care.
Signing day was a special day for several other members of the Longmont football team, which has reached at least the 4A state semifinals in back-to-back seasons.
Senior Cooper Rothe officially signed to be a kicker at the University of Wyoming.
"It's a dream come true and a credit to my teammates and my coaches for getting me here," said Rothe, who also is an outstanding defensive back. "I plan to compete and to start when I get up there and I really wanted to go there because I believe in their coaching staff. They stayed with me and I appreciated that."
Trojans senior Conlan Berger, who rushed for 1,323 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, signed to play football at Colorado School of Mines next season. With Sullivan, Rothe, Sydney Wetterstrom (Michigan volleyball) and Justinian Jessup (Boise State men's basketball), the class of 2016 now boasts four Division-I signees to lead a group that includes over a dozen athletes.
Logan Goodner (Western State football), Cade Bickmore (Marian cycling), Tiadora Ramos (Johnson & Wales women's soccer), and Shelbie Torres (CSU-Pueblo cheer) also signed NLIs at Longmont on Wednesday.
Conlan Berger, football, Colorado School of Mines
Cade Bickmore, cycling, Marian University
Logan Goodner, football, Western State
Tiadora Ramos, soccer, Johnson & Wales
Cooper Rothe, football, Wyoming
Eli Sullivan, football (preferred walk-on), Nebraska
Shelbie Torres, cheer, CSU-Pueblo