1998 (Senior) One of the best fullbacks in Nebraska football history, Joel Makovicka embodied some of the richest traditions of the Cornhusker football program. A walk-on from the small town of Brainard, Neb., Makovicka followed his older brother, Jeff, to Nebraska to play in the Husker backfield. The older Makovicka brothers were followed later by Jordan and Justin Makovicka to NU, while their father John was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1996 after an NAIA All-America career at Nebraska-Kearney.
Joel Makovicka was a member of three national championship teams under Hall of Fame Coach Tom Osborne in his five seasons at Nebraska. A redshirt on NU's 1994 Big Eight and national title team, Makovicka saw his first action on the Huskers' dominant 1995 championship team, while sharing time with his brother Jeff in the backfield.
In 1996, Makovicka made his first career start and played in 10 games, before stepping into the national spotlight in 1997. As a junior, Makovicka made 10 starts at fullback and carried 105 times for 685 yards and nine touchdowns. He bashed his way for a career-high 129 yards, including a career-long 43-yard gallop in a win over No. 2 Washington on national television, before adding the second 100-yard game of his career with 101 yards and a career-best three touchdowns in a win over Oklahoma. His efforts helped the Huskers claim their third national title in four years.
As a senior, Makovicka added 11 starts in 12 regular-season games and rushed for 458 yards on 97 carries. He finished his career with 1,447 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry. A co-captain as a senior, Makovicka won Nebraska's prestigious Guy Chamberlin Trophy, before appearing in the Senior Bowl. Nebraska combined for a 58-6 overall record, three conference crowns and a trio of national titles while earning four varsity letters in his five seasons in Lincoln.
Off the field, Makovicka became part of Nebraska's rich academic All-America tradition by claiming first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in both 1997 and 1998. As a senior, he added a prestigious National Football Foundation/College Hall of Fame Postgraduate Scholarship worth $18,000 in 1998. He was also a three-time first-team academic all-conference selection.
Following his Nebraska career, Makovicka was chosen in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He spent four seasons with Arizona from 1999 to 2002.
1997 (Junior) Makovicka produced the best year of his Nebraska career while helping the Huskers to their third national championship in four seasons. He earned a spot on the Sports Illustrated All-Walk-on Team in 1997, while claiming first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
He took over the starting fullback duties with the graduation of Brian Schuster from the NU backfield. Makovicka produced the fourth-best rushing total in the nation by a fullback with 685 yards on 105 carries with nine touchdowns. His 6.5 yards per carry led all fullbacks in the country, while his nine scores were a Husker record for fullbacks. Makovicka added another NU fullback record with his three rushing touchdowns against Oklahoma, when he posted his second 100-yard rushing effort of the season with 101 yards in the win over the Sooners.
Makovicka rushed for 50 or more yards in each of the first three games, including a career-high 129 yards on 12 carries in a win over then-No. 2 Washington. His effort against the Huskies included a career-long 43-yard burst. He finished the season with seven games of 50 or more yards. Makovicka added two touchdowns against Kansas and Akron, while adding solo scores against Iowa State and Baylor.
He also hauled in five passes for 60 yards, including a three-yard touchdown catch against Texas Tech. It was the first touchdown reception by a Nebraska fullback since Lance Lewis had a scoring grab against Iowa State in 1992. In the FedEx Orange Bowl against Tennessee, Makovicka was NU's second-leading rusher with 61 yards on nine carries.
1996 (Sophomore) Makovicka was hampered by a nagging hamstring pull that caused him to sit out the Colorado State and Baylor games. He played in 10 games and earned a start against Kansas, when Brian Schuster was out with a shoulder strain. Makovicka rushed 23 times for 119 yards for a 5.2 yard-per-carry average. His best day came against Kansas, when he carried five times for a season-high 49 yards, including a season-long 23-yard sprint. He also caught three passes for 28 yards, including a season-long 17-yard grab against Missouri. He had two catches against the Tigers for 25 yards.
Makovicka also had three tackles on special teams, and was on the receiving end of a successful two-point conversion pass from holder Jon Vedral vs. Iowa State. Makovicka carried four times for 12 yards in Nebraska's win over Virginia Tech in the 1996 Orange Bowl.
1995 (Redshirt Freshman) Makovicka earned his first varsity letter after playing in every game for the national champion Huskers in 1995. Makovicka backed up his brother, Jeff, and Brian Schuster at the fullback spot, carrying 22 times for 185 yards. Makovicka averaged 8.4 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns. He also notched a season-long 39-yard run against Oklahoma State. He had a season-best 55 yards on six carries in a season-opening win over OSU. He also had two carries for 31 yards and a touchdown against Iowa State, while adding four carries for 45 yards against Oklahoma. He added a 17-yard touchdown run against the Sooners.
In the 1996 Fiesta Bowl win over Florida, Makovicka registered two carries for two yards and added three tackles on special teams, as Nebraska rolled to a 62-24 win over the Gators.
1994 (Redshirt) A walk-on, Makovicka redshirted in his first season at Nebraska while the Huskers claimed the national title.
Before Nebraska (East Butler HS) Makovicka was a two-way player for Coach Dave Struebing's eight-man football team at East Butler High School. Mackovicka rushed for more than 3,500 yards in his career and set season and career tackle records as a linebacker. He earned all-area and all-state honors and was the school's player of the year his junior and senior seasons. Makovicka played in the 1994 Nebraska Shrine Game. He also lettered four times in basketball and twice in track and field.
Personal The son of John and Connie Makovicka, Joel was a biological sciences (pre-med) major at Nebraska and posted a 3.8 GPA during his NU career. His brother, Jeff, was the starting fullback on Nebraska's 1995 national championship team and was a four-year letterman from 1992 to 1995. Joel was born Oct. 6, 1975. His father was a four-year letterman at Kearney State College from 1967 to 1970, earning NAIA All-America honors as a halfback in 1970. John was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Joel's sister Jenny earned an NAIA national championship ring as a softball player at Nebraska-Kearney in 1990. The Makovicka's younger brothers, Justin and Jordan, also joined the Nebraska football tradition following their high school careers more than a decade after Jeff and Joel.
Joel was active in Ventures in Parternship and was part of the McCook Dedicated to Excellence Tour and the North Platte School is Cool Jam. He also spoke at numerous school assemblies in both Lincoln and Omaha during his Husker career.
Makovicka's Career Statistics
39 vs. OSU
23 vs. KU
43 vs. Wash.
23 vs. Cal
43 vs. Wash.
Tackles: 5 UT, 4 AT, 9 TT in career; 1 UT, 2 AT, 3 TT in 1995; 2 UT, 1 AT, 3 TT in 1996; 1 UT, 0 AT, 1 TT, 1997; 1 UT, 1 AT, 2 TT in 1998
Receiving: 12-155-1 career: 3-28-0 in 1996; 5-60-1 in 1997 (TD vs. Texas Tech); long of 21 vs. Texas A&M; 4-67-0 in 1998