Luke McNitt UNK coach

Kearney High graduate Luke McNitt, right, observes spring practice at UNK in April. McNitt, who played for the Bearcats, Lopers and Huskers and got tryouts with the Falcons and Vikings, is back in Kearney as a graduate assistant coach with the Lopers.

KEARNEY — Luke McNitt played one season at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, appearing in 10 games at quarterback and H-back in 2013, after a notable prep football career at Kearney High School.

The Kearney native transferred to Nebraska following his freshman season at UNK. Even with his departure, he kept a close eye on the Lopers and the struggles of the football program.

With Josh Lynn entering his third year as UNK’s head coach, the Lopers are trending in a positive direction.

After posting a 5-6 record last year, which marked the most wins since 2011, the Lopers have higher expectations this season.

McNitt will be back at Foster Field to experience the Lopers’ season firsthand, as he will serve as a graduate assistant and receivers coach this fall.

“It was tough to see the lows the program went through,” McNitt said. “This program means a lot to me since my dad and brother played here and I did for a year.

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“Then I saw coach Lynn get hired and the progress he was making in his first few years. He had my attention from the start, and it was a weird chance that we ended up working together in the future.”

McNitt played in 30 games during three seasons at Nebraska, contributing on offense and special teams. He was a team captain his senior year in 2017.

After the conclusion of his collegiate playing career, McNitt pursued NFL opportunities.

The Atlanta Falcons signed the fullback on May 1, 2018. He played in two preseason games and tallied two special teams tackles with the Falcons before being waived Aug. 20, 2018.

The Minnesota Vikings claimed McNitt off waivers but cut him 10 days later. McNitt trained and eagerly awaited another opportunity but never received that chance. Instead of trying to latch on with a team this offseason, McNitt hung up the cleats and pursued a job in coaching.

He said he reached out to all of his former coaches, including KHS coach Brandon Cool.

Cool suggested McNitt consider UNK and he organized a meeting between Lynn and McNitt.

McNitt said he and Lynn instantly connected, and it led to McNitt receiving a spot on Lynn’s coaching staff.

Although graduate assistants are responsible for a variety of tasks, McNitt’s focus will be coaching the receivers.

“I am just trying to help them become the best players they can be,” McNitt said. “My best position coaches I’ve had are coaches that connect with you and care about you as a player. They also hold you to a high standard.”

McNitt said he always wanted to coach football after his playing career. It wasn’t easy for him to admit that his chances of having a professional career were slim after he sat out last season, he said. But once he accepted the fact and starting pursuing coaching opportunities, McNitt grew excited for what was ahead in his football career.

“Right when you get cut, it feels like a failure at the time,” McNitt said. “As more time goes by, you can look back and realize how special of an experience it was.

“I’m starting to do that. The first few months were tough. But the farther away you get, you can realize how special of an opportunity it was.”

daniel.zielinski@kearneyhub.com

@DanZielinski3