"...but I've got some chance for someone to pick me, maybe a late-rounder, maybe a free agent, something like that."
Give Zatechka the choice between acing a test and laying out a perfect block, and it is no contest. "Football," he says, "because for me that's come harder. If I put the same amount of effort [into football] that I put into school, I'd be riding the bench right now. I put a ton of effort into football. I'm a good player, but I'm not a great football player. I'm going to blow smoke up Zach's butt: Zach's a great player. Brenden Stai's a great player. I'm not on their level. My feet aren't that quick. I don't have the instinct to run downfield and, boom, turn and whack some guy when I should."
Wiegert knows when to whack. Zatechka struggled in the final game, against Oklahoma, and the left side of the line gave up two sacks (all season the entire line surrendered just six sacks and was called for only four holding penalties). Ask Wiegert how many sacks he has given up in four years and he laughs. "I haven't given up a sack—ever," he says. "Well, there was one last year, but the quarterback just ran into my guy...."
"I have no lateral movement," Zatechka says.
"I run as fast sideways and backwards as I can forward," Wiegert says. "I don't lose a step with pads on, either."
Wiegert says he has never been more focused on football than this season. He started the year in his best shape, and "I don't do stupid things anymore like I used to." The dumbest of those came in 1992, when Wiegert got into a brawl. "I beat up the Nebraska baseball team," he says. "Me and two other guys."
Wiegert had been home with friends, watching a video of wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, when a few of his teammates showed up torn and bruised. "The [baseball players] beat up some football players at a party," Wiegert says. "So we kind of went over to their house and showed them what was up. It wasn't a very smart thing to do. I wouldn't do it again."
Nebraska has had great individual blockers in center Dave Rimington (a first-round NFL draft pick in '83) and guard Dean Steinkuhler ('84), but Osborne and line coach Milt Tenopir agree that this is the most balanced line they've ever coached. And they've needed it: Junior quarterback Tommie Frazier left the team early in the fourth game because of a blood clot in his right leg, then Berringer suffered a partially collapsed lung in his first start. Berringer came back the next week against Oklahoma State, but X-rays taken at halftime showed his lung had sagged again. That left Nebraska with sophomore walk-on Matt Turman and backups consisting of a freshman with torn ligaments in his hand, a wingback, a split end and a former student manager. Osborne gathered the linemen together, told them there would be little passing, just running plays up the middle again and again and again. "Everybody on the line just looked at one another and said, 'It's on you,' " Zatechka says. "There was an understanding that the offense lived and died with what we did."
"What else could you want?" Wiegert says. "That's like a dream for a lineman."
Nebraska scored 23 points in the second half and won the game 32-3. The next week, against Kansas State, Turman started and a still-ailing Berringer finished. The offense was monochromatic—the classic three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust attack that Osborne has so often been criticized for running—but it worked. "The best thing is just standing behind them in the huddle, thinking, These guys are in front of me," says Schlesinger.