West Potomac running back Demornay Pierson-El has committed to Nebraska. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

West Potomac running back Demornay Pierson-El left Northern Virginia Saturday morning as a football recruit “with an open head and an open heart and ready to take everything in.”

The rising senior returned home Sunday afternoon from Big Red Weekend at the University of Nebraska an unofficially committed Cornhusker, likely to play slot receiver and kick returner in Lincoln.

“I just fell in love with the place,” said Pierson-El, the 2012 Virginia AAA Patriot District offensive player of the year who also was a first-team all-district choice at kick returner and defensive back.

“It was comfortable. I could see myself going there and improving as an individual on the field and off the field. That’s what I was really looking for, a place that would fit to me. It’s not even about the offense. It’s just how much of a family they were. It just really shocked me.”

Nebraska was his only real visit, although the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Pierson-El had been to the University of North Carolina once. But it felt so right Saturday, including his chat with Cornhuskers Coach Bo Pelini, that he felt no need to shop around after talking over with family members his itch to commit.

“There was really no need for me to continue looking anywhere else,” said Pierson-El, who plans to study physical therapy. “It had the things I was looking for. I’m excited, I’m relieved, I’m focused, I’m determined.  There’s still stuff that I have to do to better myself grade-wise, and on the football field I want to be more together with my team and push them to be the best players they can be on and off the field because their recruitment hasn’t stopped yet. My individual part is over, but as a team player, my part is not over.”

Pierson-El last season rushed 181 times for 1,658 yards and scored 26 touchdowns, including three receiving. There was some thought that he would end up at North Carolina, like former West Potomac teammate Caleb Henderson, the current Lake Braddock quarterback who committed to the Tar Heels.

The two are friends, and have discussed their recruiting situations, but Pierson-El did not feel the pull of Chapel Hill. In fact, he felt somewhat turned off by his UNC recruitment.

“That ship had kind of sailed with North Carolina,” Pierson-El said. “It just didn’t fit right. They were pressuring me way too early. What they were doing was unnecessary in the beginning, trying to rush my decision, and I wasn’t ready to choose. [It seemed like] just because they got Caleb that they were automatically supposed to get me. We’re not a package deal. We’re not Batman and Robin.”