LINCOLN — Ross Dzuris headed from the Nebraska locker room celebration to his family tailgate on Saturday, the same as he would after any Husker home game.
As nightfall came — and the Nebraska victory parties were just getting started around parts of town — Dzuris headed back to his Lincoln apartment.
With his wife.
“We’re not too crazy,” Dzuris said. “We’re pretty laid back.”
There’s a consistency, steadiness and calming influence about the fifth-year senior as the only married Husker. He goes to school, goes through his football day, goes home.
Dzuris brings the same reliability to the football field — and at a position where the Huskers truly need it.
The defensive end has drawn regular praise from coach Mike Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker for his recent work, which includes at least four tackles in every game and ranking among the Big Ten leaders in sacks (3½) and tackles for loss (six).
“I’m still trying to get a little better each week,” he said. “The more consistent I am, the easier it is for everybody else to play off of me. So that’s kind of what we strive for — just kind of doing my job, not trying to do anything outside of myself.”
Nobody was giving Dzuris anything approaching preseason All-Big Ten mention over the summer. The former walk-on from Plattsmouth was only a part-time starter as a junior, after not playing a single snap the prior two years.
But when Kelly Stouffer of ESPN asked Banker before the Wyoming game who might be an unsung hero of this Husker defense, Banker named Dzuris.
“To say now, ‘Ross is going to lead in this, he’s going to lead in that,’ I’d be making that up,” Banker said. “But I know this — and it goes back to last year when we first started playing with Ross — that he works very hard, he knows what he’s doing, he has really good technique, he has a passion for the game.
“I think if you play hard, give great effort and you’re in the right place, you got a better-than-average chance of making plays, and that’s what he’s doing for us right now.”
Dzuris takes it all in stride. Other than the old-style mustache that naturally draws a second look, he doesn’t demand nearly the same attention off the field as he does on it.
That’s OK with him, too.
Ross and Noelle (Campbell) were married July 1, something they first talked about during the spring of 2015.
“I had told her that if I got a scholarship, I asked if she would want to get married,” Dzuris said. “She said yes. Toward the end of the season, I decided to ask her. We didn’t want to wait the whole year, like some people do, so we did it during the short time I had in the summer.”
Dzuris has a light academic load this semester before the business administration major graduates in December. Noelle is working full time in Lincoln. They have been a couple since high school.
“I just love going home,” Dzuris said. “I just love lying on the couch, watching movies together. We usually just like to chill at home.”
Dzuris said Noelle wasn’t necessarily a football fan or even a Nebraska fan before, but obviously has become one. He can talk about the team or practice or games, or whatever.
“She’s pretty easy to talk to,” he said. “She’ll listen.”
With his change in relationship status, however, comes a fair amount of ribbing. Even before his wedding, Dzuris said teammates called him “Old Man” or “Grandpa,” since he has been around the program since 2012.
Even assistant coach John Parrella gets into the action.
“He always makes fun of me, but he actually got married before his senior year, too,” Dzuris said. “So I think he knows where I’m coming from. He just likes to give me a hard time about it.”
Parrella said his old Husker defensive line mates never gave him much trouble about being married to Leigh back in 1992, “because my wife fed us.” Now they have five kids and have been married 24 years, and Parrella wishes the same good fortune for Dzuris.
“I just have fun with him about it,” Parrella said.
As with senior defensive tackle Kevin Maurice, Parrella said the years behind Dzuris have led to what he has become.
It’s the work ethic. Doing everything right every day. The passion for it. What Parrella calls being a consummate pro.
“Guys like that want to constantly get better, and that’s him,” Parrella said. “Today he wanted to get better. So that’s every single day with him. He’s not content by any way, shape or form with how he’s playing. We’re really happy with him, but I know he wants to continue to get better.”
Dzuris turns 23 in a few weeks. He goes home after big games. It’s not like a wedding really changed anything, though.
“It’s just one less thing to worry about, I guess,” Dzuris said. “I’m taking three credit hours, I just have a nice, easy life at home. So I’ve been able to focus on football all summer and fall, and it’s been great.”
#20 Nebraska at Northwestern
When: 6:30 p.m. (Pregame: 1:30 p.m.)
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill
Radio: B103 (103.1 FM)