The UNO football program was cut in 2011, but the Maverick football legacy continues to live on for at least a few more years.
Former Omaha kicker Greg Zuerlein will find himself playing in Super Bowl LIII this Sunday, as a member of the Los Angeles Rams.
On Jan. 20, Zuerlein had the opportunity to tie the game with a field goal in regulation, giving the Rams a chance against the New Orleans Saints. Finally, in overtime, Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal to win the game and send his team to the pinnacle of NFL achievement: the Super Bowl.
“I just looked up, and saw it was going straight. I was happy,” Zuerlein said after the game. The kick was the best of his season.
Technically, UNO is not Zuerlein’s alma mater: because he played his final season at Missouri Western, the school “Nebraska-Omaha” (as it was once referred to) is not present on any bios. But Omaha can still claim him as part of their legacy.
He was a junior when he found out that the football program was to be cut.
“I lived with a couple of football players at the time and they woke me up and were like ‘have you seen this?’,” he said when interviewed by KVNO in 2015. “I didn’t really know whether to believe it or not and then we had a meeting later on and so obviously it was real.”
Zuerlein doesn’t hold any resentment about the decision to cut football. In 2012, he was drafted to the (then) St. Louis Rams.
On Sunday, Zuerlein will get the opportunity to play one of the best teams in football: the New England Patriots, led by future Hall-of-Famers such as Quarterback Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick.
Unfortunately, there’s a small problem: an injury on his plant foot. Zuerlein battled that injury while playing in the NFC Championship game.
“Didn’t look like it affected him, did it?” said Rams Head Coach Sean McVay in an interview later on.
Zuerlein is expected to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3; however, he wears a boot on his left foot and is not practicing for now – a measure Coach McVay calls “just being extra cautious,” according to ESPN.
Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast on CBS on Feb. 3. Former Mavericks to play in a Super Bowl include Marlin Briscoe (the NFL’s first starting African-American quarterback, and also 1972 Super Bowl champion as a wide receiver), Chris Bober and Chris Cooper (runners-up with the 2001 New York Giants and the 2003 Oakland Raiders, respectively).