The big news this off-season for Nebraska was its switch to the peso defense as its base formation. The package features a hybrid defensive back/linebacker as a starter instead of a traditional outside linebacker.
What some fans may not know, however, is the "peso back" really isn't all that new to the Blackshirts. For four years during NU's storied run through the mid-1990s, Octavious McFarlin was one of the players who was a peso back before it became a household term in Husker Nation.
After lettering as a 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back as a true freshman in 1994, McFarlin bulked up to 200 pounds by his senior year in '97 and played a combination of rover and weakside linebacker.
HuskersIllustrated.com caught up with the player who was more than a decade ahead of his time for this week's edition of "Where are they now?"
You have about as many great memories as any Nebraska player ever playing on three national championship teams. Are there any moments in particular that you maybe treasure more than others when you look back on your days as a Husker?
"It's not just one particular moment that stuck out, it's the whole experience. Being there and being a part of something that was so great. That program was so highly noted, and it was full of guys that feel lucky to have been able to play with while I was there. Everybody there was great. Even now when I go back there from time to time, I still see some of the same people that meant so much to me while I was there."
Talk about what it was like playing for Tom Osborne during those glory years. Did you bond with him as much as so many of your former teammates said they did?
"Coach Osborne loved everybody on his team, and he treated everybody the same. Whether it was Tommie Frazier or a walk-on, he treated everybody the same and he treated us fair. That's what I always appreciated about him. He's a man of his word, and he keeps and even keel about himself, which I think taught all of us how to carry ourselves on and off the field."
Speaking of your former teammates, do you still keep in contact with any of those guys?
"All the time. At this last spring game, Steve Warren had a program he put on, and a lot of us came back to help him out and raise some money for his foundation. So I got to see a lot of the guys at the spring game and catch up with some guys I hadn't seen in a while."
|Where are they now? |
|Player: Octavious McFarlin, 1994-98 |
Current city: Bastrop, Texas.
Current profession: After trying to catch on with a few semi-professional football teams following the 1997-98 season, McFarlin recently returned to Nebraska and received his bachelor's degree in sociology this past December. He has since moved back to his native Bastrop, Texas, and has worked as a substitute teacher while working towards becoming a certified teacher. His goal is to eventual teach at the high school level and be a head football coach.
Professional career: McFarlin went undrafted following his senior season at NU, but he kept his football dream alive by playing for a handful of different teams in the now defunct semi-pro North American Football League. He played on teams in Lincoln, Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Mo.
NU career accomplishments: McFarlin was a four-year letterman from 1994-98, where he was a member of three national championship teams and was a part of some of the best defenses in college football history. After coming in as a highly-touted safety out of high school, McFarlin added 20 pounds of muscle by his senior year in '97 and eventually moved to weakside linebacker. He helped guide the Huskers to their third championship in four years that season by ranking sixth on the team with 50 tackles while adding a sack and a 43-yard fumble recovery - the second-longest defensive return that season.
I saw that you were recently inducted into the Bastrop High School Hall of Fame. How special of a moment was that for you to be recognized like that?
"That was pretty cool. It's not a very big town, but they definitely support the high school. To get an honor like that and be recognized as one of the best players to come out of my high school was one of the best honors I've ever had. What made it even better was that I got inducted with my old coach, Les Johnson. He's one of the most successful coaches in Texas high school history (244-118-6), and he a big part in my success. I kind of had a love-hate relationship with him back then. I loved him for what he did for me, but he was one of those guys who pushed me and always expected more of me. I appreciate it now, but back in high school I wasn't always happy about it."
I'm assuming you've heard about Nebraska's switch to the peso defense as its new base package this off-season. Is there any part of you that thinks you would have fit perfectly in that defense?
"Yeah, but that's basically what we did back then. We just brought myself and some of the other undersized linebackers out and played just as much in coverage as we did up on the line of scrimmage. I think the guy that started all of that was Terrell Farley. He was a guy that wasn't big enough to be a linebacker but played tough enough that you didn't have to sub him out to play the run. There was no drop off."
How much pride do you still take in being a Blackshirt and what you guys were able to accomplish during your time at Nebraska?
"You know what, I actually brought the idea of the Blackshirts back to my high school, and we started having the 11 defensive starters wear Blackshirts in practice just like we did at Nebraska. Right away I saw what that did for my high school. The kids loved it, and they appreciated all the tradition that goes with being a Blackshirt. I'm not going to lie, those years when (Nebraska's) defense wasn't living up to the Blackshirt defense a few years ago, it was pretty rough. I think it was the Texas Tech game when they scored 70 points (in 2004), it was like, 'Damn!' Being from here in Texas, people were giving me a real hard time about it."
I'm sure Nebraska's move out of the Big 12 to the Big Ten hasn't been much easier for you the past month being in Texas. What are your thoughts on that whole situation?
"I'll tell you what I tell everybody else, I believe in Coach Osborne, and if he decided that was the best thing for the university, then that was the best decision for the university. Being from Texas, I won't get to see them play as much or be as easy to go to a game. I'm definitely going to be there for the Texas A&M game this year."
From what you've seen from Bo Pelini so far, could you see yourself playing for him back when you were in college?
"Oh yeah, definitely. I like Bo. I like his attitude and his approach. When I was up there for school last year, I got to meet him and actually used to play basketball with him all the time along with some of the other coaches at the Devaney. I like Bo and I like his attacking style of defense. I just like the whole system and scheme that he runs. I think he's one of the best coaches in the country."
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