Nebraska proved to be the best fit for winner Shawn Hammerbeck for the future of college football – Mitchell Republic

WINNER, SD — When Shawn Hammerbeck was invited to spring training by the Nebraska football team earlier this year, he was hesitant about making the trip.

“I thought, ‘Am I really going to waste my time here?’” Hammerbeck recalls.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound player from Winner called director of player personnel Keith Williams back and wondered if it was worth going.

Williams assured him that this would happen and indeed, the visit ended with a meeting with head coach Matt Rhule, who offered him a scholarship.

“I went to spring training and I felt right at home,” Hammerbeck said.

While it felt good, the incoming senior wasn’t a sure thing and continued to consider other offers. In June, he took official visits to Minnesota, Nebraska and Texas Tech, and his decision came down to the Cornhuskers and Red Raiders.

He chose Big Red and announced his commitment to Nebraska on July 3.


Winner Shawn Hammerbeck competes in the Class A boys discus throw during the first day of the South Dakota High School Track and Field Championships on Thursday, May 23, 2024 at Howard Wood Field.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“I just sat down with my family and we weighed the pros and cons of each school,” Hammerbeck said. “And it just seemed like the right choice to go to Nebraska.”

The recruiting department’s attention immediately turned to Hammerbeck, who was a dominant force on both sides of the line for the Winner team that went 10-1 last season but didn’t receive its first top-conference offer until midway through the basketball season.

The difference was made by the personal interaction with recruiters.

“I think I had the film turned off, and I think all the schools just wanted to see me in person, to see if I’m really that big and can move that well,” Hammerbeck said. “Once they see the body and can match it up to what they see on film, then I think they can really feel confident that this is the guy they want.”

Once Nebraska settled on Hammberbeck, he got a lot of attention. He built a strong relationship with offensive line coach Donovan Raiola and had a good rapport with special teams coach Ed Foley and running backs coach EJ Barthel.

Raiola and Foley even traveled to Tripp County and flew into Winner Regional Airport.

“They flew in a Nebraska jet and landed at Winner Airport, and within 10 minutes my dad got a picture of one of the guys spray painting in a plane. And we thought that was pretty cool, pretty awesome,” Hammerbeck said. “And then they just came to the school, and we just got to talk football.”

Although he has developed a bond with Raiola, it has not yet been determined whether Hammerbeck will play on the offensive line or defensive line. The plan is for him to come into the program and determine from there where he fits most naturally.

Shawn Hammerbeck.JPG

Winner’s Shawn Hammerbeck does a box jump during practice at Winner High School on June 11, 2024.

Jacob Nielson / Mitchell Republic

If that ends up on defense, he could follow the path of Oacoma native Nash Hutmacher, the 6-foot-4 star nose tackle out of Nebraska. Or he could join the same room as offensive lineman Jason Maciejczak, a 2023 Pierre graduate.

The prospects of continuing the pipeline in South Dakota played no part in Hammerbeck’s decision. However, after talking with Hutmacher and Maciejczak, he came to the conclusion that it was the right move.

“I was just trying to find the best fit for me. But these guys went there and I got to talk to them and they had a great time there, and it made me feel like this is the place for me,” Hammerbeck said. “I fit in really well there, because I’m from a small town in the Midwest.”

Jacob Nielsen

Jacob Nielson is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He joined the Mitchell Republic in July 2023 after graduating from Utah State University in 2023 with a degree in journalism and a minor in history. He covers a variety of prep and collegiate sports throughout South Dakota.

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