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How a secret trip to Lincoln helped sell Matt Rhule on Nebraska

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Amie Just and Luke Mullin have the Husker report after Matt Rhule was introduced as Nebraska's next football head coach on Monday.

In an era of flight trackers and internet sleuths, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts pulled off the ultimate heist  getting a potential coaching candidate in and out of Lincoln without anyone noticing.

Speaking about Nebraska’s coaching search, Alberts said he interacted with 13 different candidates, with Rhule being option “1A” among those coaches. But, negotiations were slow and not always easy, so Alberts believed he needed to get Rhule to Lincoln for a visit.

Through the help of a donor, Alberts said Rhule and his wife flew into Omaha and stayed at his house while getting to know Lincoln. But, how did no one notice? For one thing, Rhule said this occurred on a Husker gameday where attention was elsewhere.

“We literally flew in  I can’t believe no one found out  we drove around and we said, ‘Could we raise our kids here? We said absolutely,’” Rhule said. “We left and I kind of looked at my wife that this was done.”

While Rhule declined to say what day this visit took place on, negotiations still carried through to Thanksgiving. Although seeing Lincoln certainly helped seal the deal for Rhule and his family, his relationship with Alberts also played a major role.

And when Rhule, his wife Julie and their three children stepped off their plane in Lincoln on Monday morning, the first people they saw were Alberts and his wife, Angela.

“My wife has been the superstar in this whole deal,” Alberts said. “They flew into Omaha and stayed with us at our house and we were able to show them around Lincoln and the great state of Nebraska. It’s just like recruiting  if we get people here, they’re blown away. It’s one thing to see videos about our university, but you have to get them here.”

And for Rhule, his wife’s blessing was also of the utmost importance when deciding on Nebraska. The long, tough hours of a head football coach are hardly an industry secret  and Rhule said his wife is the exact same.

“My wife Julie woke up yesterday morning at 6 a.m., put three dogs and three kids in a (Mercedes) Sprinter van, drove 12 hours back to Charlotte and got there at 11:00, ironed the kids’ clothes until 12:30, was up at 4 and is here smiling,” Rhule said of the journey to get to Lincoln. “She’s a grinder, and she’s the best.”

So, without that covert trip to Lincoln or the bonds built between his family and the Alberts, perhaps Rhule wouldn’t have ended up as Nebraska’s head coach. Instead, Alberts’ ability to fly under the radar (or evade it altogether) paid off in helping Nebraska land his top choice.

“When we were able to sit down face-to-face and build that trust, I think it was a game-changer for both of us,” Alberts said.

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