End of the road
Makovicka's Nebraska days moved too quickly
Posted: Monday December 28, 1998 09:58 AM
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- From his family's sprawling acreage of farmland near Ulysses, Nebraska, to the pressure and pagentry of big-time college football, Nebraska fullback Joel Makovicka has seen plenty.
As a senior, he just wishes it hadn't gone so fast.
"I think it will really settle in when I put on that red jersey one last time," Makovicka said. "It's going to be an emotional moment. I've had five years with a great team and lots of great memories."
Makovicka's career comes to a close in the Holiday Bowl when the No. 14 Cornhuskers (9-3) play No. 5 Arizona (11-1). It's not the top-level bowl game he became accustomed to during his time at Nebraska.
"I'd probably rather be at a press conference for the Fiesta Bowl," he admitted. "I guess things didn't go our way."
It hasn't been a big season statistically for Makovicka, who has 458 rushing yards and two touchdowns after a junior year in which he scored nine TDs and rushed for 685 yards.
Yet instead of looking back, the 5-foot-11, 240-pound Makovicka is looking ahead. After the Holiday Bowl, he said he plans to pursue tryouts with NFL teams.
"I feel like I want to play for more years," he said. "I love the game. We'll see about possibly going on."
If that doesn't pan out, Makovicka can fall back on an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. He's one of only 10 recipients in Division I.
"I'd like to be a doctor, probably in sports medicine," said Makovicka, a two-time academic All-American. "I know I can't totally get away from athletics."
Makovicka typifies thousands of high school football players in Nebraska. Growing up in a rural area, he always dreamed of playing for the Cornhuskers. He was invited to walk on and later earned a scholarship.
What distinguished Makovicka from many of his fellow walk-ons was his background in eight-man football at East Butler High School.
"I graduated with 21 people in my class," Makovicka said. "I always said 'Why change it?' Some people might say I would have had more opportunity for football at a bigger school, but I loved it."
Although his home is listed on the Nebraska roster as Brainard, Nebrasla, where East Butler is located, Makovicka said he's really from Ulysses, which is so small it doesn't appear on many maps.
"There may be as many people in this room as from his hometown," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said Sunday at a news conference.
It's been a remarkable career for Makovicka, who this season broke the school record for touchdowns by a fullback. His 13 TDs eclipsed the mark of 12 set by Tom Rathman from 1981-85.
He also played on teams that won two outright national championships and shared last year's title with Michigan. Although the Huskers came up short in their bid for another crown, Makovicka said he's at ease.
"We had a lot of injuries this year but we still competed through that," he said. "We're happy to be at the Holiday Bowl. We want to go out and play well and finish the season right."
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