Koby Bretz hasn’t been dragged down by the dizzying circumstances of the year that is 2020. His arrow is pointed firmly skyward. Fortune continues to favor the talented senior safety and wide receiver from Omaha Westside High School.
He’s locked up a scholarship offer from the University of Nebraska, his dream school. He and his Westside teammates make up the top ranked team in Class A, Nebraska’s largest high school classification. They’re on track for a state championship run.
Indeed, Bretz is on top of his world today. Not long ago, none of this seemed certain.
Rewind to late summer 2018. It was a sun-splashed summer afternoon on Westside’s campus. Head coach Brett Froendt patrolled the sidelines during a pre-season practice. He talked about his stellar sophomore class, their talent, and what he expected from them. All the familiar faces of today were there.
Cole Payton, a young gunslinger at quarterback, was as yet unknown but coming on strong. Avante Dickerson, the current Minnesota commit, was already being hunted by top-tier programs around the country. Cade Haberman hadn’t yet grown into the body that would get him signed with Northern Illinois, but the fire was there.
Then, Froendt paused and pointed his finger to the right. His target was another sophomore, lean and sculpted, obviously athletic.
“Koby Bretz,” Froendt said. “He’s a D-I kid if he can get his head on straight.” Bretz was
struggling in school, something he admits with freedom.
“My freshman and sophomore year, I definitely didn’t like to apply myself and pay attention in the classroom,” Bretz said.
But on the football field, there was never a doubt. Bretz was already an athletic freak, as
described by Froendt. “He’s got the best ball skills I’ve ever seen,” Froendt said. “His athleticism is something I haven’t seen in my 28 (years).”
Bretz’s gymnastics and diving background have given him incredible body control. He might today be the best high school diver in the state. That is, if he hadn’t given it up to focus on football.
Fast forward to Westside’s 2019 season, Bretz’s junior campaign. The recruiting world’s
crosshairs were fixed on the program. They were winning, dominating most of Class A football. The Warriors rolled to a 7-2 regular season finish, winning their seven games by an average of more than 41 points.
In the playoffs, foes were similarly dispatched. Westside avenged both regular season losses during their run to the final by a combined 66-14 score. The showdown was set with undefeated Bellevue West.
Meanwhile, Bretz’s Westside teammates were getting heavy attention from colleges. Avante Dickerson became one of the most sought after juniors in the country. Bretz saw it and knew he could be getting that attention. Because of his struggles, Bretz was in danger of being left behind.
“Some schools don’t want to wait and see if it’s going to work,” Froendt said. “It ultimately comes down to the kid getting done what he has to get done.”
His talent was too big to ignore, whatever the reason. A team from every collegiate conference, according to Froendt, made contact. But the reality of his situation still hadn’t clicked. Bretz himself said he was on the verge of being a “waste of talent.” He was close to losing a big opportunity.
The opportunity to win a state title was the first on the table. It never came to be. He and his 2019 Westside team were thoroughly beaten by Bellevue West, 35-0. The missed opportunity may have awakened something inside Bretz.
“We don’t want to come up one game short again,” Bretz said. “That just fuels our fire.”
Bretz’s fire to make it to the next level took off after the loss, too. Over the summer, he enrolled in classes with Florida Virtual School, an internet-based public high school. Bretz saw his GPA rise by grinding through summer classes. With his academic house in order, the table was set for the offer he’d always wanted. After the winding road of disappointments, missteps, recoveries and successes, Nebraska finally offered a scholarship.
“I considered going somewhere else at the beginning of my recruiting process, just because I didn’t think I’d pull that offer,” Bretz said. “Once I got that offer, I knew I was going to go there.”
Bretz has matured significantly, by his own estimation, since the days of not liking to pay
attention as a freshman and sophomore. He’s done so by Froendt’s standards as well. “Now he’s becoming more of a leader,” Froendt said. “Kids are looking to him.”
Bretz’s story could have been a cautionary tale. It could have been a story about a promising athlete with the sporting world at his fingertips, only to let it slip away. It could have been a very sad story.
Instead, it’s a story about a kid who righted his wrongs and climbed out from under the mistakes of the past. Only time will tell if Bretz continues his current upward trajectory. His play on the field suggests that he will. Everything gets bigger from here, both on and off the field. The world becomes significantly more vast beyond high school.
But that’s all in the future. Bretz has a few games left in high school. He’s got a chance to help his team seize on the missed opportunity of last season’s championship game shutout. He wants to make All-State.
For now, Bretz is on top of his world.