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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 26, 1999)
' , _ ■••• ; .. .
Thursday, August 26,1999 ____Page 9
into No. 1
By Darren Ivy
Senior staff writer
Ask junior fullback Willie Miller how many blocks he threw
during his high school days at Bellevue West, and his total sta
tistics probably wouldn’t add up to the number he will make in
Nebraska’s first game Sept. 4.
Miller was a star I-back and wasn’t called upon to block any
one. Receiving the majority of handoffs his senior season,
Miller rumbled for a school-record 1,527 yards and 18 touch
downs and was named the Midlands’ offensive player of the year
by SuperPrep magazine.
But in the recruiting process, NU Coach Frank Solich - then
the running backs coach - made it clear to Miller that he would
be a blocking fullback for the Cornhuskers.
“Blocking has been something I really had to work at,” said
the 6-foot-1,240-pound Miller. “In high school, I always carried
the ball and never blocked. Now it is the reverse, but I can han
dle that now. I don’t know if I could have in high school.”
With the graduation of Joel Makovicka, Miller will be one of
the main players responsible for clearing a path for the Husker
quarterback and I-back.
And Miller is ready.
“It is one of the most important positions,” Miller said. “It is
not a glory position, but the offensive line and fullbacks are the
ones who make everything happen.
“I know that when an I-back gets a 70-yard run, I had a part
in it - or if the quarterback is able to make a completion, I played
a part in blocking for him,” he said. “If I rock a linebacker and
put him on his butt, it feels as good as scoring a touchdown.” -
Though it requires more responsibility, Miller said, being the
No. 1 fullback is a comfortable position to be in. The offense, he
said, comes more naturally because he doesn’t have to worry
about competing with anyone.
“You can focus so much better,” said Miller, who has carried
the ball 29 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns in his two
years at NU. “I am worried about being a leader and taking care
of business. Being number one, everybody looks to you for
intensity during practice. I am the one who sets that (intensity).”
Miller’s work ethic has never been questioned, but senior
fullback Ben Kingston said he had some reservations about how
Miller would adjust to being a Division I fullback.
“He came in, and he was just a really big guy,” Kingston
said. “I had watched tape of him in high school, and he hardly
Mocked anybody. He came in hoe and really got after it. He has
improved a lot. He has also gotten a lot faster.”
After watching Joel Makovicka and Cory Schlesinger at
fullback, Miller knows he has big shoes to fill this fall -but he
Please see MILLER on 10
NEBRASKA FULLBACK Willie iMtor irill take eeeijrtartlfig duties this fall. As a sophomore last year, Miller took^B carries for
SB yards aad scored two touchdowns, ■ "w
. r, • v >** ■ m -
Sitting on die back of a four-wheeler tinder
neath South Stadium, a tvorn-out^sweat-dreiiched
recalls three knee surgeries and the doctors who
thought his playing career was over in 1996.
f ■ -f,
not like Perino doesn’t know what he’s gemug uuo.
Assuming Bobby Newcombe and Eric
Crouch stay healthy, Perino will likely see just n
handful of maps at die end of games that are way
out of hand.
Still, suffering through two-a-days and a daily
fall practice schedule sure beats haring to just sit
and watch on Saturday aft emoons.
But there was a time when making a return to
the football field didn’t even cross his mind
»g He had, of coupe, been declared medically
training staff wasn’t encouraging him
to return in the fall of’97 following two surgeries
on his right knee cap. He was still in too much
“There was no easy way out <rf|t,”Perino said
“Xonjust kind of throw everythingin the trash can
-like I never came and tried or anything.
i*-~. “It wasn’t a waste. I felt like Ihada goodexpe
gone in a heartbeat, and I was just a student. It was
really tough,” he said
Even tougher was sitting among 75,000 fens in
Memorial Stadium watching his former team
mates in the fall of 1997.
ly^llustane year earlier, Perino had walked the
sidelines onSaturdaysand even saw limited action
in seven games behind starter Scott Frost.
"Youjustljgnd of throw
everything in the trash can -
fife / never came and triedj
; , ’ ^ •: \ - -
The action came following the second knee
after a stellar career at Durango (Colo.) High
School, where he first dislocated his kneecap).
The decision to go on medical scholarship and
never play football again - to free up a football
scholarship - came in the summer of 1997, and
Perino underwent surgery once more in
December. • " ':f- • ’ >
But he just couldn’t take being away from the
^^Mvhich wasn’t much easier.
“I liked being up there and having the headset
on,” he said “I got deep mto the mental game.
“The hard part was watching seeing mis
takes or seeing a receiver open and thinking,
to make that play,’” he said
, As his itch to get back on toe field grew, his
knee began feeling stronger. • . i\
r. J So finally, Fennowent and talked to the great
A1 Papik, then NU’s Athletic Departmertadminis
trator§ who worked with toe NCAA to get Ferino
off medical exemption. Ferino said he may even be
granteda rare sixth year next M.
Buffer now, he’s not expectingbig things. He
knows,where he stands - and has Understood toe
quarterback situation al^along. For Ferino, just
suiting up is enough.
“I didn’t expect anything,” Perino said “I’m
just out toere competing to toe best of my ability,
and that’s all I can do. I don’t know how much
playing time I’ll get. I just want to be there for toe
team whenever they need me.”
So will toe time and sweat be worto his while?
“Right now, Idon*t know,” Pferino said, “but it’s
fun being back.”
Dave Wilson is a senior news-editorial
major and the Daily Nebraskan sports editor
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