Just a few Nebraska boys actually achieve those dreams, especially those youngsters from the small communities across the state. Mathew May of Imperial is one of those few boys to see their Cornhusker dreams come true.
May, a 2007 Chase County High School graduate, is a junior linebacker on the University of Nebraska football team. May (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) is listed on the second team at linebacker for the Huskers. Number 36 in the Husker program also starts on Nebraska's special teams.
Big Red dreams
May, listed as a two-year letter winner on the NU roster, said the dream of playing football at Nebraska started when he was a kid.
"Ever since I was a little kid -- I can't tell you the exact date," Mathew said about his Husker dreams, "Those were the kind of things we'd do, like watch football with dad on Saturdays. It was always kind of a dream of mine. We always pretended, when we played in the back yard, that's who we were was Nebraska. That was always a dream of mine, and I'm just happy to be here right now."
May took a few minutes to talk after Nebraska's 20-13 loss to Texas Saturday, Oct. 16, at Memorial Stadium. Matt said the Huskers just couldn't get untracked Saturday, with mistakes and dropped passes contributing to the loss.
"It just seemed like we couldn't get clicking on either side of the ball," he said. "It seemed like once we'd get to rolling a little bit, we'd have a little slip up, and that would stop our drives."
May said the Huskers were ready to compete Saturday, but he felt perhaps some of the team's problems against Texas came from individuals doing too much.
"It felt good going in," he said. "It just seemed like guys were trying to do maybe a little more than their roles. They were kind of trying to do a little extra, trying to spring a play here, or make a play there. I think that's where you get in trouble, is when you try do more than what you're supposed to do."
The Longhorns shut down Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and the NU option offense.
"Give a lot of credit to the (Texas) defense and their defensive coordinator," May said. "They really had a good scheme to focus on Taylor and shut him down."
May said the Huskers have to bounce back from Saturday's loss, starting with a key game at unbeaten Oklahoma State on tap this weekend.
"It's so early in the season," he said. "We still have a lot of goals on our list that we can attain. We have a tough game next week on the road, so it's real important to come back ready to work (Sunday)."
May comes from an athletic family. Taylor May, Matt's brother, wrestled at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and Taylor graduated from UNK last spring. Younger brother Michael is a sophomore at Chase County who competes in football, wrestling and track and field for the Longhorns.
"We're working on him. We're trying to toughen him up a little bit, as much as we can," May said of his younger brother.
With his football weekends busy, Matt doesn't get many opportunities to watch little brother play high school football. But he did sneak back to Imperial a few weeks back to see the Longhorns beat Bridgeport, 46-0.
"I was actually fortunate enough after our Thursday game (at Kansas State Oct. 7), I don't have class on Friday, so I headed home and I got to watch the game," Matt said.
May's first tunnel walk
May said it was exciting to finally get to experience the famous NU pre-game tunnel walk at Memorial Stadium in his redshirt season in 2007.
"I had offers everywhere, but Nebraska was always in the back of my mind," he said. "It was exciting to finally get here. The first game I got to walk out on the field, and do the tunnel walk, was USC. I was pretty excited for that. It was unbelievable, the feeling -- it's something that I could never really explain in words."
May got on the field for real during the 2008 season, finally achieving that dream of playing football at Nebraska.
"You try to remember you responsibilities and stuff like that, and not get caught up in the atmosphere," Matt said. "It's unreal with the fans, and just the atmosphere that's here on Saturdays."
May played last season with a bilateral sports hernia, which cut down his playing time. He went to Germany last summer for a special surgery to fix the problem, and it seemed to work. He starts on Nebraska's punt and kickoff teams, with hopes of seeing more time on the Husker defense at linebacker.
"I'm trying to get back in the mix on defense," Matt said.
Coach to the point
May enjoys working under Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.
"He's a good guy, just real down to earth," May said of his coach. "He cuts straight to the chase, he doesn't really talk around anything. He likes to get to the point -- he doesn't like anybody sugarcoating anything, so he tells you the way it is."
Husker fans might be surprised to know that there's some teasing and a few smiles exchanged between Pelini and his players.
"He's pretty funny. He has a joking side to him -- he won't let anyone know about it," May said. "He plays some pretty good pranks."
The May family is involved in agriculture in Chase County -- more specifically, raising potatoes. Matt said that was a good experience during his younger days.
"That was our guaranteed summer job growing up," he said. "We didn't have to turn in applications -- we were hired every summer whether we wanted to or not. That was good, I enjoyed it. You learn a lot, a lot of experiences, and you build a lot of character, I guess, growing up, you're helping dad out on the farm."
Huskers back to work
For May and his Husker teammates, it's time to return to work after last Saturday's loss.
"We've just got to regroup," he said. "We'll come back in (Sunday) and go back to work. Our goals are still very attainable -- the Big 12 championship's still up for grabs. We've just got to come back to work and forget about this game, and move on."
Mathew May just may be the prototypical walk-on in the Nebraska football program -- a hard-working, humble athlete from a small town in the Cornhusker State, living his Husker dreams of playing inside the hallowed walls of Memorial Stadium.