Senior center Nick Nowakowski went from fourth on the depth chart to starter in what seems like the blink of an eye. Originally not expected to see much time, Nowakowski’s number finally got called against the Arizona Wildcats after three, yes, three of the Ute’s centers have gone down with injury during the 2016 season.
A lot of players would be unnerved by the situation but Nowakowski has a calm approach to how he practices and prepares for the game that helped the Utes get a win over Arizona for the first time since 2011. “I just have to be ready to start,” Nowakowski said of his opportunity. “I kind of expect to start and I just have to be ready for that.”
Some of the people who have helped Nowakowski stay prepared for his big moment have not only come from his own position group, but from the players he faces off against everyday in practice. “Everybody- o-line, d-line just everybody, all the boys hanging around. It makes you want to come everyday and work when you are around people you love,” he said. “It’s easier to come out every day. Especially if you are having fun, it’s easier to come out than doing something you hate. If you love what you do it makes it easier even when it’s hard.”
Asked what some of his favorite memories with the boys have been Nowakowski finds it hard to choose because the entire journey has meant more to him than anyone could ever understand. “There has been a lot of them,” he said with a smile. “I can’t really put them all together, you know? I mean the whole thing has just been fun.”
One thing Nowakowski will always remember are his early days with the Utes going against some of the very best players to ever have come through the Utah program. “I remember being on scout team and playing with some really good players,” he said. “I mean Star and some of those guys in the NFL. It really makes you better going against that kind of d-line and just working up into traveling. Just getting better every day, every step of the way.”
Nowakowski, while quiet, isn’t afraid of a challenge and likes going against the very best competition whether it be in practice or on Saturdays against the Ute’s Pac-12 opponents. “It’s always fun to go against the best,” he said. “If it’s just easy it’s not as fun but I’m going against the best every day in practice and then again on Saturdays. It’s really fun going up against that kind of competition.”
Sometimes though going against the best can be discouraging too. The best advice Nowakowski has received to combat those times is to simply work hard. “Your attitude and efforts is all you can really control,” Nowakowski said. “That’s what I’ve been focusing on- having a positive attitude about everything and coming to work every day and play hard.”
That attitude and work ethic is exactly what Nowakowski would like to be remembered for after his playing days at Utah are over. “Just that I played hard, gave it everything I have no matter what my role is,” he said. “I just did everything I could to make this team better.”