Colorado head football coach Jon Embree is proud to see senior defensive end Will Pericak on the verge of breaking a school record.
On Saturday, Pericak is slated to make his 48th career start, which would break the school record set by former Buffs offensive lineman Ryan Miller (2007-11).
"It says two things: one, obviously playing at a high level and two, staying healthy," Embree said. "Especially the last piece, that's hard to do when you play like he plays. He's high motor, he's a physical guy and he plays every play out there like it's his last play. That's a testament to how he trains and takes care of himself in the offseason. At it's a testament to his heart."
Pericak's perspective on the record -- a milestone he was unaware of until being asked about it -- was quite different.
"It means I'm fortunate enough to stay healthy, and I guess it really means when I was a freshmen the upper classmen weren't really good enough and it made a freshman start," he said.
Or, maybe it means that Pericak was a really good freshman in 2009.
"That wasn't the case," he said. "As a freshman, I was terrible. I was a punk freshman and I didn't really deserve to be on the field, but we didn't have anybody else."
Whether he deserved to be on the field in 2009 or not, Pericak clearly belongs there now, and it's fitting that the Boulder High School graduate is in line to break this record. Pericak grew up following the Buffs and has been in the starting lineup for every game CU has played since the start of the 2009 season.
Pericak's streak of 47 consecutive starts is already a school record. He's also started more games than any other defensive player in CU history and on Saturday is slated to tie the record (held by four others) for total games played in a CU uniform -- a record he should break on Nov. 23 against Utah.
Breaking records doesn't mean much to Pericak, but being on the field for CU does.
"I feel fortunate to be able to play for the Buffs as long as I have and get as many starts as I have," he said. "That definitely means a lot, but the record doesn't really mean much.
"I'd rather have the record for wins than the record for starts and we definitely didn't get enough wins in those 48 starts, so obviously something wasn't right."
No, Pericak didn't get the amount of wins he wanted; CU is just 12-35 in Pericak's career. But, his time with the Buffaloes has hardly been a waste, and he's sure to be the favorite for the Buffalo Heart Award, presented annually by CU fans to a senior at the final home game.
Originally a tight end when he arrived as a redshirt in 2008, Pericak became a solid contributor at defensive tackle and, over the course of the past two seasons, has evolved into an exceptional defensive end with NFL ability. He credits defensive line coaches Kanavis McGhee and Mike Tuiasosopo, who were hired by Embree before the 2011 season, for making him the player he is today.
"I've grown quite a lot," said Pericak, who has 50 tackles and four forced fumbles this season. "The coaches are great coaches. I didn't have that coaching before. Seeing my growth from when they first came here to now, it definitely speaks well of them. And, it's good to see myself play better as the years go on.
"With these coaches, they've done a good job preparing me and teaching me how to play the right way. If that opens opportunities at the next level, that's great."
Junior center Gus Handler, who has engaged in countless battles with Pericak in practice over the years, has enjoyed seeing Pericak develop.
"From the time I got here as a freshman, I've always thought he was a force -- a big kid, strong kid," Handler said. "But, I feel like these past couple of years, he's really taken his game to the next level, with his fundamentals, his technique and how he works in the weight room. I think all of that work is really starting to show and pay off."
Handler also said Pericak has earned tremendous respect in the locker room for giving maximum effort at all times.
"You know that no matter what the situation, no matter what the score, he's going to give it his all," Handler said.
Pericak's non-stop attitude, combined with his ability to disrupt a play, has drawn attention from NFL scouts.
"They can't get over how hard he plays and that excites them," Embree said. "I've told Will he's made himself some money this year because of that. There's more talented people out there than him, but he'll play longer than those guys if he stays healthy just because of his motor and how he prepares and how he gets ready for the game of football."
With two games left in his career, Pericak is preparing just like he always has, and he wants the same thing he wanted out of all the other 47 games he played.
"Trying to get a win, get a couple of wins," he said. "That's all I'm really thinking about.
"It's meant a lot to me to be a Buff and play here for four years and get as many games as I've played in. I feel fortunate to have those opportunities. We have two more opportunities and we'd like to go out on a high note."
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