If you’ve been to a Nevada football practice this week, you may have had a flashback to the 1980s.
Former Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth’s flowing blonde mohawk was one of the most iconic looks during that era of college football. But the guy sporting a similar look in New Orleans wasn’t “The Boz.” It was Nevada defensive end Brock Hekking.
The senior said he got the idea while watching television one day. He ran with it.
“It all started my sophomore year,” said Hekking, whose Wolf Pack (7-5) faces UL-Lafayette (8-4) in the New Orleans Bowl at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“I was watching (ESPN’s) ‘30 for 30’ and I saw Brian Bosworth, and I loved the way he played and what he brought to the table, so I thought I would try it. I always had the crazy hair, so I kind of ran with it and it became my persona on the field.”
Hekking exploded on the scene that season, recording 75 tackles (10 for loss) and eight sacks, while becoming somewhat of a cult hero around the Nevada campus for his rebellious look. The senior said the haircut symbolizes his mentality toward school and football.
“It’s business in the front and a party in the back,” Hekking said. “You’ve got to take care of your business, like all your academics and school work, and the party is when I hit that switch when I hit the field. Then I become a different person.”
While Bosworth became known for his brash and outspoken nature, Hekking said his haircut doesn’t represent who he is.
“It displays my football personality, but not who I am off the field,” said Hekking, who has 21.5 sacks during his tenure at Nevada. “I love the team, I’m not a party kid, I don’t go out and get in trouble. But on the field, it’s a different story.”
Bowl games are always special for seniors because they represent the end of their collegiate careers. But Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl is even more special for the Nevada seniors.
None of the Wolf Pack’s senior class has ever experienced a bowl win.
Nevada hasn’t won a bowl game since 2010, and while some of the players from that team are still on this year’s roster, all of them were redshirting that season. Last year was the first time Nevada didn’t make it to a bowl since 2005.
“It really hurt us last year, having to watch other people play in bowls while we were at home,” Hekking said. “It is extremely important to us and I think all of us will be playing with a chip on our shoulder.”
Nevada played in bowl games after their 2011 and 2012 seasons but came up short in both games, and some of the seniors still feel the sting of those losses.
“This is very special for us,” senior linebacker Jonathan McNeal said. “I got here in 2011, so I didn’t get to experience the (2010 bowl win). The two bowl games I’ve been a part of we ended up losing, so I feel like the seniors really want to feel what it’s like to get that win in a bowl game.”
Bowl games are usually at neutral locations, but the crowd at the New Orleans Bowl will probably be far from neutral.
Plenty of UL-Lafayette fans will be at Saturday’s game, and coach Brian Polian said he is preparing the team as if it will play a road game. He said the offense will have silent counts and hand signals prepared if noise becomes an issue, but he is not overly concerned.
“We played at BYU, we played at Florida State last year and we played at UCLA,” he said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a big deal. From the moment we started talking about the game we approached it like a road game.”