Tyler Huber closed his career at No. 1, but perhaps it was just as cool to be No. 4.
In the aftermath of his team's resounding victory in the NCAA Division III national championship game Friday, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater wide receiver caught some televised highlights on the team bus. There he was, making one of his two touchdown catches in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, a 52-14 win over Mount Union of Ohio in Salem, Va., at No. 4 on ESPN's "Top Plays."
Huber's leaping catch along the right sideline, a touchdown snag that broke a 7-7 tie, received the accolade. He also caught the next touchdown pass and finished with four catches for 65 yards in his last game with the Warhawks, who won their fourth championship in five years and fifth in seven.
"It was a great feeling playing on that kind of stage and playing well and getting opportunities to make plays out there," said Huber, a product of Mukwonago High School. "You don't get to say that too often, being D3 to be on SportsCenter Top 10, that was crazy. It was a great game, just to be able to go out there with my teammates and put on a great show."
The well-documented rivalry between Mount Union, which has been to nine straight D3 title games, and Whitewater, which has been to eight of nine, had never seen a game like this. It was the worst loss for Mount Union in any game since 1974.
"I think within our program, the players and coaches, we believed that we could make a strong push, at least better than what we did last year (when Whitewater missed the playoffs)," Huber said. "I knew we'd be able to put up some points on them, but I didn't think it would be that kind of game. Our defense is unreal ... the best defense in the country in my estimation, and we just had to put up more points than they did. They couldn't stop us. If we wanted to run, we could run, and if we wanted to pass, we could pass. We were playing our best football."
Huber's opportunity to get one last national title began with a bad break. In the third game of his senior year last year, Huber broke his ankle and received a medical redshirt.
"At the time, I was devastated," he said. "It was my senior year last season, and to go out like that ... I was obviously devastated with that. When I learned I could come back, it was a breath of fresh air. I got to play with the younger guys and show them the ropes and got another opportunity to go back to the title game."
Huber, who also endured an injury-riddled season during his senior year at Mukwonago, said he took some time getting to full strength this year, as well. He caught 41 passes this season for 543 yards and eight touchdowns, the second-most receiving scores on the team.
He said his first career touchdown, coming in 2010 and also in the Stagg Bowl, was a play that resonates as one of the biggest in his career.
"That was a rough individual year for me, but to go out in my last game as a sophomore, that was one of the biggest highlights for me," Huber said.
He gets to do the same thing this year.
"Going out as a senior and playing my last college football game and winning a national championship ... you can't put that into words."
He wasn't the only MHS alum on the team. Josh Williams served as a key part of an outstanding linebacking corps, finishing second on the team with 80 tackles. He posted 10 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks and an interception.
"I never got to really play with him at Mukwonago, and I'm glad I got the opportunity at Whitewater," Huber said. "He's a heck of an athlete, an emotional guy, and leaves it all out on the field. We had a pretty strong linebacking corps this year that was pushed by a lot of seniors, and Josh was one of them. He stepped up and played really well this year."
Williams, a 2007 Mukwonago graduate, started his college career with a redshirt season at Winona State, then took two years off from the game before joining Whitewater with full eligibility in 2009. He missed the entire 2011 season with an Achilles rupture, leaving him as the Warhawks' elder statesman.
Huber said he does pay attention to what's happening back home.
"I've followed them every once in a while; they didn't get past Franklin (in the playoffs) but are building toward another good team next year," Huber said. "I like how coach Iverson has really turned the program around and is doing a great job. The best football from Mukwonago is yet to come."
The past has produced its share of standouts as well, apparently. Huber will finish his student-teaching next semester and pursue a career in education.
"I might be biased because I play for Whitewater, but I think the WIAC is the strongest conference by far in the nation for D3 football," Huber added. "With Oshkosh playing great football and Platteville lately, Lacrosse has been a powerhouse for the longest time ... we're battle tested (by the time we reach the playoffs). It's not like we blow out every single team in the conference."
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