Commentary

The road to Lincoln

Michael Minter, Josh Banderas on different paths, but may end up in same place

Originally Published: April 3, 2012
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN Recruiting Nation

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Tom Banderas arrived at the University of Nebraska as a defensive end out of Oak Grove, Mo., and finished a quarter-century ago as a tight end with 16 career receptions, 10 of which went for touchdowns, over three seasons.

Mike Minter came to Nebraska from Lawton, Okla., the heart of enemy Sooner territory. He started at strong safety on the 1995 national-championship team that included 17 defenders who played in the NFL, including Minter, a 10-year fixture in the secondary for the Carolina Panthers.

Banderas and Minter are long gone, but they're not forgotten. Never forgotten.

That's how it works in Lincoln, the epicenter of a football-crazed state; the names and the memories live on, suspended in time alongside hundreds of Husker legacies.

This recruiting cycle, though, has reshaped the legacies of Banderas and Minter. Their sons, linebacker Josh Banderas of Lincoln Southwest High School, and defensive back Michael Minter of Lincoln North Star, rank as elite prospects for the Class of 2013 in a state that produces little such talent.

Both sit high on Nebraska's recruiting radar, but their stories and potential paths to college differ greatly.

Banderas taking his time

Josh Banderas stars in the heart of the defense at a school with close ties to Nebraska. When he received an offer from the Huskers at a February junior day, most observers in this community expected Banderas to accept. Immediately.

Josh Banderas
Mitch Sherman/ESPN.comJosh Banderas has an offer from Nebraska, but much to the surprise of Big Red nation, he's didn't commit immediately.
After all, it's a tradition of sorts to commit early at Southwest, dating to the pledge of Baker Steinkuhler -- another son of an ex-Husker -- in September 2006 for Nebraska's 2008 class.

Banderas wants to do things differently. He's intent to wait and collect offers. The latest came from Vanderbilt during a recent trip to Nashville. He also holds offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State and Tulsa.

Southwest coach Mark King said he's talked extensively to coaches at Oregon and Southern California about his 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker.

"This is just a different way of doing it," King said. "And honestly, if it was my son, this might be the way I'd have him do it."

Banderas wants to earn the first invite ever for a Nebraskan to the Under Armour All-America Game.

"I grew up here, playing catch in a Husker jersey in the backyard," Banderas said. "I love it here, and I want to be here. But I don't know 100 percent yet. I want to see what else is out there."

And dad is OK with his son's plans to extend the recruiting process. Just as long as he ends up at Nebraska, Tom Banderas said with a laugh.

"I believe that boy is going to wear an N on his helmet," the elder Banderas said.

In fact, the shadow cast by his hometown school has motivated Josh Banderas since he was old enough to hold a football.

Tom coached Josh as a kid. From before the time he reached junior high, Josh commonly heard the same lesson: Few kids are willing to make sacrifices to get to the top. Along the way, you make choices. You can always pick Door A or Door B.

One door might offer more fun, but the other could put you on a path to play football in front of 90,000 people.

Josh got the message.

"He's a highly motivated kid with highly motivated parents," King said. "Some kids rebel from that. Josh didn't. It helped him become a great student. He's a great leader, just a special guy."

Josh Banderas amassed 127 tackles last season as a junior in his first season of extensive playing time. Injuries hampered him as a sophomore, but it didn't take long for King to see promise in a healthy Banderas.

How long? Maybe a few plays into the season opener against rival Lincoln Southeast last August.

"I just remember him making plays," the coach said. "Sideline to sideline. You really don't always know until the lights turn on, but he had it -- size and speed. He runs as well as a kid who's 180 pounds."

Nebraska did not bristle at Banderas' decision to evaluate his options. Coach Bo Pelini told Banderas to visit the NU campus often -- it's a five-mile trip from his high school -- and that the Huskers would recruit him like he's a prospect from Florida.

With dad in his ear, Josh is likely to hear plenty about the Huskers.

"I think he wants me to be close," Josh said. "But anywhere I go, as long as I can play, he'll be happy with it."

Really, Tom said, he just wants Josh to make the right choices in football and in life. The rest will fall into place.

Minter forced to wait

Michael Minter did not get the scholarship offer he wanted in February.

Michael Minter
Mitch Sherman/ESPN.comMichael Minter doesn't have an offer from Nebraska. Yet. Ultimately, it's up to him if he gets one.
Minter attended Nebraska's junior day and visited with several coaches, including Pelini. Mike Minter, the former all-conference defender who played on two national-title teams in Lincoln, was there, too.

They met in Pelini's office, and the coach's words were clear: Get your act together away from football, and you've got a spot in this recruiting class. Until then, no offer.

"I love what Bo told him," Mike Minter said, "because now it's not just dad who's telling him that. The head coach at Nebraska is saying it. He told him, 'You've got the name. You're one of the best athletes out there, but everything you do is going to be looked at.'"

High school has not been easy for Michael Minter. Uprooted from Concord (N.C.) First Assembly and separated from his father and younger brother, Minter moved to Lincoln less than a year ago. The elder Minter coached last year at Johnson C. Smith, a Division II program in Charlotte, after moving his wife, Kim, and Michael to Nebraska.

Mike Minter said he hopes to climb the coaching ladder quickly. He didn't want Michael along for that ride, so he searched for a solid place to move the family.

"A place like Lincoln," Mike said. "I knew it was a great place where you won't find a lot of trouble."

Kim's younger brother, Austin Rose, is already a sophomore at North Star, so it worked as a natural fit for Michael.

Mike, who will coach special teams this season at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where former Nebraska quarterback and assistant coach Turner Gill is the head coach, talks to Michael almost every night and attended several games in Lincoln last season.

Though he rushed for 1,174 yards and fared well as a cornerback last season, Minter couldn't stay out of his own way. Disciplinary and maturity issues plagued his first year at the new school.

"One thing that's so hard for kids is to learn how to receive the praise," Mike said, "keep it balanced and keep it in perspective. This world doesn't revolve around you, and most teenagers don't understand that."

In his father, Michael has an impressive role model. Mike captained the defense at Nebraska and for the Panthers, starting a franchise-record 141 games in Carolina. He considered a run for U.S. Congress after his 2007 retirement.

"He's been brought up the right way," Lincoln North Star coach Mark Waller said. "His parents are good people. They have great character and standards. He just needs to figure it out. And he will.

"It's in Michael's corner. If he wants to play at Nebraska, it's up to him to do what we want him to do, and what his mom and dad want him to do. If he can behave right and associate with the right kind of people, things are going to work out for him."

Michael, at 6-1 and 175 pounds, may grow into the same kind of physical safety as his father. He has offers from Purdue and South Carolina in addition to Kansas before Gill was fired in November.

"I like running back better for high school," he said, "but I feel I'm a DB in college."

As for the college choice, father and son remain on the same page. If Nebraska offers, it's an easy decision. The younger Minter said he, too, appreciated Pelini's direct style in explaining the situation.

"He said they want me to come here," Michael Minter said. "You've just got to show us you want to come here. It made me think real good of him. He's going to tell me how it is. That's the kind of coach I want to play for."

Two players, one Big Red dream

If Minter gets that chance, fate could place him on a Nebraska defense alongside Josh Banderas in the same stadium their fathers called home.

For now, they're crosstown rivals.

Banderas and Southwest beat North Star 48-21 last October. They'll meet again as foes next season. Yet in ways large and small, these two have always been a part of the same team.