You say the name Makovicka and any Husker fan worth their salt is going to sit back, reminisce and smile. Two of Nebraska's most successful fullbacks bore that name and took their football careers to the NFL. The kind of tradition that both Joel and Jeff passed down is daunting, but something that Justin Makovicka looks at as a little more motivation to succeed. "It's not like they are pressuring me to do what they did," Justin said. "They give me crap, but I do this more because I love it and it does kind of run in the family."
The most recent ‘run' was made by Joel, finishing up his career as one of the most prolific fullbacks in Husker history, Joel holding the record for the most touchdowns scored by a fullback in a game (3) and in a career (13). Joel finished his time at Nebraska with almost 1,500 yards on the ground.
Coming off a junior-year where he ran for over 1,600 yards, the number itself isn't intimidating, but where he did it is, well, a little. "It's a lot tougher to do things at that level, so when you see someone have success like that, you know they did something, because you really have to work hard to even make it there." Justin said.
"That's one of my goals for sure."
That lies down the road a bit, but just a little farther down the road is the U.S. Army All-American junior combine and with just about a week to go, the younger Makovicka will admit to having just a few butterflies swirling about. "Oh, I am nervous, because it's just starting to hit me that it's only a week away," he said. "But, I've been working out and running so I am ready to do the best I can."
The drills will be nothing that Justin hasn't seen at the varied camps he's been to thus far. Between the NIKE combine and his trip to the Nebraska camp, the events are familiar and even the surroundings he'll be in are somewhat familiar as well. "We were down there for the big twelve championship game," Justin said of when he saw Nebraska throttle Texas A&M in just the second title game for the conference. "That was a great atmosphere, so it will be fun to go back."
Following in his brother's footsteps, Justin is already prepared as he's a consummate lifter, runner, whatever he has to be to be in the best shape he can. It's amounted to some impressive numbers thus far for the 6 foot, 1 inch, 210 pound senior-to-be. "My best forty is a 4.7, shuttle time – 3.8, ten-yard time – 1.4, my vertical is 31 inches and I benched 185 14 times at the Nike combine." He said.
For a little perspective, that's better, stronger and faster than either of his brothers that were as famous for their prowess in the weight room as they were for their ability to carry the ball and crush tacklers on the field. Oh yeah, and he's bigger to.
When you already have the advantage over siblings that made it as far as the NFL, you'd think his own aspirations are equal to what they did and possibly beyond. "I don't look at it like that," Justin said "I want to get to college, hopefully play football there and just enjoy that experience."
"If it goes farther than that, that's great, but it's nothing I am putting as my main goal."
Reality is what it is and the achievements of his older brothers hasn't caused Justin to give way to what he would refer to as hope, rather than a given. It hasn't diminished his goal of eventually doing one thing, though, that clearly follows the trail his brothers laid. "My dream is to play for Nebraska," he said. "It's not just about what my brothers did there, but you grow up here and that's what you want to do. If you are someone that wants to play football in his state, Nebraska is probably there as the place you want to play."
Justin got a taste of the new staff this last summer at one of the three sessions of camps. While his name would have been certainly familiar to most of the staff that preceded Bill Callahan and his group, it wasn't so much here. The unfamiliarity wasn't a problem for him, nor was the season Nebraska had that is the worst he's seen in his entire life. Anymore, it's just business as usual. "I'm sure they will get it turned around," he said. "It's probably hard to do so many new things and have success right away, so I am hoping that they get back to where they were pretty soon."
This new staff hasn't worn the luster off being a Husker either, even though the idea of what a Husker is, is different than it used to be. Now as opposed to anytime when Justin watched Nebraska, it was about being a Husker and now, it's possibly about what being a Husker can do for them. "I think a lot of recruits look at it like that," Justin said of schools being seen as stepping stones to the pros. "But, the chances of anyone actually making it there, I think that you should look at college for the experience and enjoying it, because for most, that's probably the last football they are going to play."
Justin could follow in his brothers' footsteps another way as Jeff is now studying for the bar-exam after graduating law school in California and Joel, currently a G.A. at the University of Virginia is looking to become a P.T. (physical therapist). Whatever road he takes, though, Justin knows that he would look at least for awhile, football to be part of it.
"We've grown up playing baseball and football," he said. "But, I've always enjoyed football and have had some success at it, so I would like to continue to play that in college if I can."
"And, of course, I want it to be at Nebraska, because I mean, for me, that would just be a dream come true."