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KEN'S CORNER: Humble Raiola at center of Husker tradition
BY KEN HAMBLETON Lincoln Journal Star
The bite of lasagna almost came out of Dominic Raiola's mouth faster than he comes out of a snap and into an opposing linebacker.

The question, "So, what about the rumors that you're turning pro after this season?"

After clearing his throat and another cough, Nebraska's most recent All-American center said, "The thought hadn't crossed my mind. I don't know that it's an option."

Raiola was named to the Football Writers Association of America 2000 All-America team Monday. The junior from Honolulu, Hawaii, is a finalist for the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy, too.

He joins the long list of Husker centers named to All-America teams including: Charles Brock, 1938, Tom Novak, 1949, Rik Bonness, 1974-75, Tom Davis, 1977, Dave Rimington, 1981-82 (also a two-time Outland Trophy winner and one-time Lombardi winner); Mark Traynowicz, 1984, Bill Lewis, 1985, Jake Young, 1988-89; Aaron Graham, 1995 and Aaron Taylor, 1996 (also All-American guard in 1997).

"I've heard of a lot of those guys," Raiola said. "Rimington. He was one of the all-time greats. It's an honor to be on that kind of list. Being named to the first team mans a lot to me because it says the four guys on the line with me are doing a great job. They get the credit, too, because a center is only as good as the guards and tackles around him.

"This is such a team sport, so many other people contribute to all we accomplish, it's quite an honor to be singled out. I can only do the best I can and the individual honors are great because they are unexpected, but I know it's more than one guy."

Raiola seems to lift those around him as much, if not more, than the other way around.

"In my years at Nebraska, I don't recall a lineman who played with the intensity that Dom displays," said Milt Tenopir, who has coached more All-Americans at Nebraska than anybody else. "He has speed and quickness which would rank with the very best."

Raiola was the first Husker center to earn all-conference status as a sophomore and he earned first-team academic All-Big 12 honors, too. He is the key to the nation's leading rushing team and the reason the Huskers have a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 1997.

He was blustery before Nebraska's loss to Texas last year and has been relatively quiet with the press since. He has always been a leader in practices and in games, as he showed on the sidelines at Kansas State two weeks ago.

"I love this game," Raiola said. "It's fun. Think of those words - game, play - and you see why I love it. If it wasn't fun, if it wasn't a game, how could you play and practice and prepare as much as we do.

"Sometimes people forget that if it were their kids on the field playing, they'd want them to do their best and enjoy the time on the field and not just worry about the team's record."

Raiola added that some players take on such pressure that they only play to win and be undefeated and forget about playing the game for the sake of playing. "If you get caught up in the 'football as business' I think you'd eventually burn out and not want to play anymore," he said.

NOT A GOOD START:

Nebraska did not have a good beginning to games played on Nov. 24, tying Iowa 10-10 in Omaha in 1892; losing to Iowa 6-5 in Council Bluffs in 1898 and losing at South Dakota 6-5 in 1899. The Huskers also lost to Chicago 38-5 on Nov. 24 in 1906 and finally turned the corner with a 119-0 victory over Haskell on the date in 1910. The most recent NU game played on Nov. 24, the Huskers beat Oklahoma 37-0. A century ago, NU finished 6-1-1, losing it's final game to Minnesota, after posting wins over Lincoln High, Iowa State, Drake, Tarkio, Missouri, Grinnell and Kansas. The Huskers tied the alumni 0-0 in an exhibition game and tied the Kansas City Medics, 0-0 in a game in Kansas City.

40 YEARS AGO

Named to the All-American teams in 1960 were: Mike Ditka, Pittsburgh; Bob Lilly, Texas Christian; Merlin Olsen, Utah State; Bill Kilmer, UCLA; Roman Gabriel, North Carolina State; John Hadl, Kansas.

BIG BUCKS

The difference between beating Southern California and losing in Los Angeles this weekend for Notre Dame could be more than $12 million. The Irish would get $13.5 million for playing in the BCS bowls, $1.4 million from the Gator Bowl and only $750,000 from either the Music City or Insight.com bowls.

Reach Ken Hambleton at 473-7436 or khambleton@journalstar.com.

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