Step by step — and with ‘no expectations’ — Bootle looks ahead to next phase of career

Dicaprio Bootle runs through a position drill at Nebraska football’s pro day Tuesday at Hawks Championship Center.

CHRIS BASNETT Lincoln Journal Star

Dicaprio Bootle’s entire football career has led up to this.

“I’m a firm believer that you take everything one step at a time and things are going to fall into place,” Bootle said recently.

The steps Bootle has taken, both figurative and literal, will give him a chance to land on an NFL roster in the coming months.

Those steps started while in high school at Florida, when his stunning 40-yard dash time landed him a scholarship offer from Nebraska. And the steps he took in his 40 at Nebraska’s pro day Tuesday could very well do the same.

“I’ve watched pro day every year since I’ve been here. Seen all the guys that have participated in pro days, whether they be from Nebraska or the surrounding schools in the area,” Bootle said. “Just watching them come and ultimately chase their dreams, and put their talents on display and go out there and give it their best effort.

“But now it’s finally my turn. I’m here, and I put the work behind it, and I’m just going to continue to have my faith in God and understand that it’s God’s work.”

The work has been the thing for Bootle, more so than wondering where he might play at the next level, thinking about whether he’ll be drafted or picked as a free agent. There’s been little focus on the end of the road, with all the attention on the steps needed to get there.

“When I left here and I decided I was going to go train, do combine-style training, I knew that I would have no expectations,” Bootle said. “And that’s something that was just kind of a reminder that I wrote down: no expectations, only work. It wasn’t really different than anything I expected. Every morning I woke up, if there was a task at hand, I did it. If there was a phone call I needed to take, I took it. If there was an interview I needed to have, some type of testing, I did it.

“Every day was different, no two days were the same. Just kept on building and building and building through each day. But I had no expectations through this whole thing. Only work.”

Bootle started 32 straight games for Nebraska; each game of the past three seasons. And as he made his way through a senior year in which he finished with 25 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception, he and the rest of NU’s seniors found out they could take advantage of a free year of eligibility from the NCAA.

In normal times, last season would have been Bootle’s last after five years in Lincoln. When the season started, that was Bootle’s expectation.

But when word came down that the extra year would be available, Bootle approached his decision like he has the rest of his football life — step by step.

“Anytime that you have big decisions that you need to make, I think it’s very important that you sit down, weigh the options and figure it out. If there wasn’t a COVID year I wouldn’t have been able to come back anyway, so I had already put that in my (mind), and it just happened to fall the way that the NCAA gave back the year,” Bootle said. “So the last couple days; maybe the last last two games in a Huskers jersey, I did a lot of thinking. Trying not to think too much to where, you know, I was over-emotional. But just thinking analytical, using my mind to make the best decision for me.”