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As a senior at Highland High School in 2013, Tanner Farmer was ranked as the No. 4 offensive guard and No. 82 overall high school football player in the nation by Rivals.com.
A first-team all-state selection, Farmer was an anchor on Bulldogs’ coach Jim Warnecke’s team which finished 11-1 and reached the Class 5A quarterfinals. Also a two-time Class 2A 285-pound state wrestling champion, Farmer had scholarship football scholarship offers from such schools such as lllinois, Missouri and Minnesota.
But after making his official visit to and choosing the University of Nebraska, Farmer arrived in Lincoln in the summer of 2014, hoping for a chance to prove he could play the highest collegiate level.
Five years later, Farmer is hoping for a chance once again.
A three-year starter on the Cornhuskers offensive line, Farmer is one of hundreds of draft-eligible players hoping to get that call from a National Football League franchise later this week.
The 2019 NFL Draft is set for Thursday-Saturday in Nashville. The 6-4, 325-pound Farmer believes he may hear his name called during rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter where. If there was a team in Alaska, I would go there to play,” Farmer said. “I have heard I could be taken in the late rounds or may have to go the free agency route. I have had a few teams contact me who have shown interest in me. I’m hoping to get a spot on a team and show them what I can do.”
A three-year starter on the Cornhuskers offensive line, Farmer, 23, has shown he deserves a chance to make an NFL roster. He played for three different coaches (Bo Pelini, Mike Riley and Scott Frost) in his five years in Lincoln, and made 30 career starts, 22 at offensive guard and eight at center.
In those eight games at center, the ‘Huskers averaged 478 yards of total offense per game.
Nebraska finished strong, winning four of its final six games after an 0-6 start.
“It was tough this year... but this year was also the most fun I’ve ever had playing football. It all centers around that coaching staff,’’ Farmer said. “Getting off to such a poor start allowed some us to get out some issues. It gave us a chance at getting a new start half way through the season.
“The coaching changes were very tough., not knowing which direction the team was going to go. But when we hard that Frost was coming in it was kind of like the calm before the storm. Everyone knew that we were going to be all right. A lot of the coaches at Nebraska now, these guys didn’t just play at Nebraska, they are legends at Nebraska. They know what its all about. ...They understand how important it is.”
Farmer was a star both on and off the field. A two-time member of the Nebraska scholar-athlete honor roll, Farmer was also a four-time member of the Brooks Berringer and Dr. Tom Osborne Good Citizenship Teams.
Despite enjoying a solid senior season and career, Farmer did not get the chance to show off his talents at the NFL draft combine earlier this year. Instead, Farmer put himself on the NFL draft watch list at the University of Nebraska Pro Day on March 7.
With more than 20 NFL team representatives on hand, Farmer — despite coming off a strained pectoral muscle — put up 39 225-pound reps in the bench press. That number tied Weber State University offensive lineman Iosua Opeta for the best numbers on the press of any NFL combine participant.
Also during Pro Day, Farmer had a broad jump of 9 feet 10 inches that would have tied the best of any offensive lineman at the combine and his vertical jump of 32 1/2 inches would have been among the top five.
“I have not worked out for any teams. I didn’t have to, too, because everybody has seen the numbers I put up at the pro day workout and they know what I can do athletically,” Farmer said.
Farmer, who graduated from Nebraska last May, returned to Highland last week and will remain in his hometown at least through the draft.
A 2014 graduate of Highland High School, Farmer said he gets home two or three times a year to spend time with his parents, Brian and Connie Farmer, and other friends and supporters. Among them is Highland football coach Jim Warnecke who took over the Bulldogs during Farmer’s sophomore year.
“Do I think Tanner can play in the NFL? I know how hard he has worked to get to this point to have an opportunity to play in the NFL,” Warnecke said. “We are all really excited for him and his parents. We hope that he gets drafted this week.”
Farmer began his career at Nebraska in the summer of 2014, but did not play during his first two years. He provided depth at guard in his redshirt freshman season in 2015, but did not play.
Farmer wrestled in open tournaments his freshman season, compiling a mark of 5-1 in the 285-pound class. He continued to wrestle until his senior year.
But football was always the priority. Farmer broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2016, playing in 11 of 13 games.
“It was tough not playing the first two years and it was a humbling experience,” he said. “I get there and I thought I was hot stuff and then I don’t start. ... Socially, in the classroom and on the field, I had a lot of growing to do.
“But it’s like that for a lot of kids. In high school I was a big fish in a small pond. At Highland. I was very successful. I was a starter on the football team, I won two state championships in wrestling, then I get to Nebraska and I’m on the scout team. It made me realize all the hard work that I needed to put in, not only physically but mentally.”