LINCOLN, Neb. – On the day became old enough to drink legally, Nebraska's Niles Paul apologized for the second of his two alcohol offenses.
"It was me making another silly mistake," Paul said after Monday's practice. "I know I made a mistake, and I try to move past that."
Paul, one of the Big 12's top threats as a receiver and return man, was sentenced to community service for his conviction for underage drinking. Paul pleaded guilty to being a minor in possession of alcohol. A charge of public urination from the May 28 encounter was dropped. A breath test measured his blood-alcohol at .104.
The senior from Omaha was suspended for the balance of spring practice in April 2009 following his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. He was not charged with DUI. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and being a minor in possession of alcohol.
"No matter what everybody believes, I don't drink a lot," Paul said in his first public comments about the May incident. "That night, guys convinced me, 'Let's go out.' I let that get to me. I went somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. I went down there, got into some trouble, and the hardest thing was apologizing to my teammates, coaches and my dad. You feel like you let them down."
Paul said his teammates have been supportive. Coach Bo Pelini did not announce any disciplinary action against Paul.
Paul was the Huskers' top receiver a year ago, and he produced five of Nebraska's eight longest plays. Paul averaged almost 28 yards a kickoff return, the Huskers' best mark in two decades. He also is remembered for costly fumbles in losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State.
"I got to college, things didn't go my way and kind of put a damper on my dreams," he said. "I get in trouble, mistakes happen on the field that normally don't happen. It's just a whole growing-up process for me, maturing and becoming a man."
Paul didn't say which Lincoln bar he went to or how he got past an ID check.
"I knew I wasn't old enough to go out," he said.
Paul said he hopes the team has a no-alcohol policy during the season. As for his birthday, he planned to go to dinner with his family.
"No beer for me," he said.