Take a scholarship, even a partial at one college or
walk-on at the other.
That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? I don’t know anyone
that actually wants to pay for school when they have a chance to get at least
some of it, perhaps most of it paid for by the institution you are attending.
Believe it or not there is a dilemma here, because the school that
offered is Iowa State, the college that asked him to walk-on is Nebraska, and
this young man’s last name is Makovicka.
It’s a tradition firmly etched
in the minds of even the most casual Husker fans. The eight-man football players
that would later become stars amongst the stars, helping the Huskers to a total
of three national titles. The Makovicka name has literally became the embodiment
of a walk-on program that for years, perhaps even decades, stood as easily the
best from coast-to-coast.
The youngest, Justin Makovicka now sits on the
cusp of either continuing that tradition or following another road, one that for
most anyone else wouldn’t be all that traumatic of a decision, but try telling
that to him.
“It’s not making it easy when you have two brothers that
went there and the whole house is nothing but Huskers,” Justin said. “It’s
making this a lot harder than I thought it would be.”
The dilemma for the
youngest Makovicka comes down to whether he’ll be in Lincoln or he’ll be playing
in Ames. One offers a scholarship after he’s been there a year and the other
offers him a chance to earn that scholarship at a later time, but also to
continue what is easily one of Nebraska’s most revered legacies.
not like he doesn’t have other interested parties, because he’s gotten a partial
offer from Ohio, where former Husker head coach Frank Solich now calls home. And
he’s got a full ride offer from Air Force. In the end, though, he couldn’t see
himself anyplace but these final two.
“I visited Ohio and they are doing
some nice things there,” Justin said. “They have some new stuff and it seems
like the fans are really getting behind that team. I didn’t really think I would
like Air Force, though. It’s a nice school, but it’s not really something I
wanted to do.”
When it comes to Iowa State, there are plenty of native
Nebraskans already playing on that team. That’s nice. It’s also not that far
from home. That’s nice, too. But it’s been his relationship with the coaching
staff that has turned perhaps an easy decision into one that is not making hard
to sleep. “Iowa State is awesome and the coaches are coming to visit me this
week,” Makovicka said. “I like what they are doing there, they have a nice
campus and I think it would be a nice place to be.”
There should probably
be some added excitement in Nebraska about this latest version of the now famous
Brainard bunch. You often hear players say that they have a brother, that when
they were that age, they weren’t as athletic nor were they as good.
Well, I don’t know about the good part and I doubt Justin would want to
say that he’s better than his brothers without even having taken the field of a
Division 1-A team, but he’s certainly more athletic.
When Joel was at
his heaviest with the Arizona Cardinals he weighed approximately 255 pounds.
When he got out of high school, though, he was just tipping the scales at 200.
Jeff didn’t even hit that mark, weighing around 190 when he stepped onto the
campus at Lincoln. Justin? He’s 225 pounds, maybe a full two inches taller than
either of his brothers and he’s faster and even more flexible than either of the
former Husker greats.
That gives him that wonderful thing called upside
and there’s little doubt that this Makovicka could be at least as good as either
of his brothers – maybe better.
Of course, that’s the last thing on
Justin’s mind right now. Sure, he’s interested in how each team uses the
fullback and when it comes to Nebraska, he sees a future as a blocking back, but
also a role as an H-back type, a fullback in the “West Coast” offense often
seeing the ball more as a receiver than they ever do actually toting it around
on the field.
At Iowa State it’s a little more traditional, something
more resembling what Justin’s older brothers did, without, of course, the heavy
dose of option thrown in.
Let’s get to the facts, though, and his
decision is basically coming down to something that has nothing to do with the
offense, because his impact on the very state he plays in right now, could have
at least some symbolic repercussions.
His family isn’t making it any
No, they aren’t telling him what he should do and where he
should go. Point of fact, they are telling him that it’s totally up to him, he’s
not getting any pressure from his brothers, so it’s back to square one, all the
weight of this very unique tradition firmly placed on his shoulders once again.
And there he sits
Looking at the walls, remembering the countless
Husker games he’s seen, both home and away. He’s got memories of national
titles, conference titles, great wins over teams like Oklahoma, Florida and
Tennessee. He’s got stories he could tell you ad nauseam about what it’s like to
be as close to a Husker as you can get without actually ever wearing the
So, will he or won’t he?
“Right now I just don’t know,”
Justin said. “It’s becoming more and more stressful the more I think about it,
but right now I can’t think about anything else. I know this decision isn’t
supposed to be easy, but I didn’t think it would be like this.”
going to sit down, think about it some more, talk to the coaches some more and
maybe I’ll know. (laughing) Right now, though, I don’t think it’s going to be
When Martin Rucker, the younger brother of former Husker
All-Conference rush end Michael Rucker committed to Missouri, that caught people
a little off guard, but after awhile, it was just one of those things. When
Donovan Raiola, the younger brother of former All-American center Dominic Raiola
went to Wisconsin, people shrugged in confusion to a degree, but they got over
it soon enough.
That was them, but a couple of major differences were
that they weren’t from within the state and they didn’t have two brothers that
preceded them. And even more than that, they weren’t just great players, but
they were literally the symbol of a walk-on program that to this day, former
head coach Tom Osborne talks about with a great deal of pride.
the criticism over the last couple of years from the ever-dwindling program that
was seemingly once an institution, having another Makovicka come in would
certainly reinvigorate the notion that this famed Husker program wasn’t quite on
its last legs.
Yeah, sure, throw something else on Justin’s shoulders to
think about, eh?
He already has, trust me. In fact, if you asked him,
there’s probably nothing he hasn’t thought about when it comes to what his name
and his predecessors meant and still mean to a fan base that eats, breaths and
dies football clad in Scarlet and Cream.
If he chose the Huskers,
though, would he be doing it for himself or would he be doing it for all those
he knows would love to see a third “Mack” in Memorial?
He’ll have time to
figure that out once the decision has been made and he does finally know where
he’ll be going to college. Will it be red in Lincoln or red a little farther to
For us, it won’t be long to find out the answer, but for
Justin, it’s seeming like that time is never going to arrive. “Yeah, I wish it
was over already,” Justin joked. “I wish I just woke up one day and knew where I
wanted to be.”
“I’ll figure it out. I don’t have a lot of choice. So, I
guess we’ll see what happens.”
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