A dream became a reality for Matt Jarzynka on Saturday, except it was a dream that almost didn’t happen.
Jarzynka walked on to the Nebraska program in 2014. His bio page at Huskers.com tells the story. He worked on the scout team defense his first season with Nebraska, but the rest is the same: "Jarzynka added depth at defensive end, but did not appear in a game."
The walk-on defensive lineman thought about not returning for his senior season. A summer internship took Jarzynka away from the Huskers for a bit, making for a difficult decision.
“I needed to do it to forward myself professionally," Jarzynka said on Monday. "It was definitely a question if it was worth coming back to finish it out. This totally proves that this is exactly why I’m here.
"This is why I stuck it out for as long as I’ve done it.”
It was what a lot of Nebraska's first and second team players wanted. They figured if they played well, those who don't often see the field might have a chance to shine. Senior defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg was one of those players. He was also among the first to celebrate with Jarzynka after his big play and gave the Loup City native a shout out ater the game.
“He’s worked his ass off every single day and didn’t complain once,” Stoltenberg said. “He’s given all he’s had to this program and for him to get out there and make that tackle for loss, that was awesome. Just all the Nebraska kids watching the game, for them to see that and realize that if you’re in this state and you love football, you can play here, you can get on the field, you can make the most of your opportunity.
"That kid epitomizes what Nebraska is about.”
Saturday is still a bit surreal for Jarzynka. It's a dream come true, but he's still having a hard time believing it's all real.
“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Saturday," Jarzynka said. "It’s just crazy. I’m getting all sorts of texts and words of congratulation. It’s overwhelming to see the support for me that I didn’t even know existed until now.”
In a lot of ways, Jarzynka’s story of perseverance and his love for the Huskers is what the walk-on program at Nebraska embodies. The Huskers want to expand the roster and grow the walk-on program under coach Scott Frost's leadership.
And to see Jarzynka and other walk-ons get a chance to make big plays? It's exactly what Frost wants from the walk-on program.
"It's great to see him make that play,” Frost said. “It's a bunch of guys that got to make plays, but that was kind of the highlight play. He comes to work every day, busts his tail to get better and make his team better. When a high percentage of our team is kids who care as much as him, we'll really be somewhere. You get that from walk-ons that are from the state of Nebraska that grew up watching this and love it and care about it. It just means more to them.
"It's awesome to see some of those guys get rewarded."