LINCOLN — The look on Tanner Borchardt's face said it all.
While you were probably on your sixth (OK, eighth) Christmas cookie early Saturday afternoon, Nebraska basketball released a video in which Santa Claus, looking and sounding suspiciously like Huskers head coach Tim Miles, called the walk-on center to the front of the locker room after the Huskers' win over Delaware State on Friday and presented him a Christmas cookie.
It read "Congratulations on the scholarship."
Borchardt's jaw dropped in surprise.
Then "I got a jumping huddle for about a minute," Borchardt said. "What a blessing."
It was a hard-earned reward for the junior from Gothenburg, who joined the team through an open tryout as a freshman in 2015.
But it was only part of Borchardt's story.
He came to Lincoln with no guarantees athletically, despite holding scholarship offers in football from Wyoming, Colorado State and Ohio, among others. He was one of the state's top athletes as a senior for the Swedes, earning second-team all-state honors in basketball and winning the all-class gold medal in the shot put at the state track and field meet.
After his freshman season with the Huskers, Borchardt left the team for personal reasons. He tried to play intramurals as a sophomore, but was told after one game he had to sit out one full year because of his involvement with the varsity program.
Then, as the Huskers worked their way through an injury-plagued season last year, Borchardt went to Nebraska's coaches to see if he could earn his spot back.
With Purdue looming on the schedule, Miles brought Borchardt in to play the role of the Boilermakers' 7-foot-2 post player Isaac Haas in practice.
That turned out to be a savvy move for all parties involved. The Huskers upset Purdue 83-80 that week, and Borchardt was back on the team.
"No, I would never — the way it happened, I never imagined it would," Borchardt said. "You know, it's such a blessing to be in this position, to leave the team and get the chance to come back, I thank coach Miles again.
"He's blessed me with many opportunities, and I thank him for that."
The scholarship will cover Borchardt's spring semester and likely next year's costs as well after all the paperwork is filed.
The 6-foot-8, 265-pounder said he felt his chances of earning a scholarship growing as he went through his first full offseason workouts with the team before this season and began to re-shape his body and improve his skills.
"I could just tell the way my body was changing, the way I was moving on the court and the way the coaches were talking to me and the confidence they had in me during the summer," Borchardt said. "They just looked at me different, I think, or I looked at them different, and something clicked."
Miles hinted often in the preseason the Borchardt would have a legitimate chance to contribute this season. He's appeared in nine of Nebraska's 14 games as the Huskers have worked to get starter Jordy Tshimanga on track and gone with a smaller lineup to spark its offense.
But the grind of Big Ten play looms. And that means Borchardt will get his chances.
"Tanner's helped us in games. He's changed his body, and put himself into a situation where I feel confident when we do need him — now, we've been playing smaller, but the Big Ten is a different beast, too," Miles said. "But we're proud of him and happy to have him on scholarship and ease the load a little bit for the family."
As the Huskers scattered for winter break — to Chicago and North Carolina and points in between — Borchardt made the three-hour drive down Interstate 80 to Gothenburg.
It was time to celebrate.