Jose Fonseca is seeing a lot of familiar faces this weekend.
The Duke basketball athletic trainer previously spent two years in a similar role at Nebraska.
Fonseca, who also assisted the NU football program, was with the Huskers from 2002-04. He met his wife Janna, an Omaha native who was then a UNL graduate student, while he was on the staff in Lincoln.
This weekend’s Midwest Regional has given them the opportunity to meet up with family and friends.
Fonseca assists with coordinating Duke’s travel and realized that this was a possibility. He shared that with his wife, but reminded her that he didn’t have an inside line with the NCAA to make it all happen.
But even before it was announced the Blue Devils would land in the Midwest Region, some of his Duke colleagues began teasing him about how great a return to Nebraska would be for his family.
“Listen, it’s only great if we get there and it’s great for the team,” he said. “This is extra for me. I couldn’t be happier, and my wife is through the roof right now. But there was definitely talk at the house about coming back here and seeing her family and a lot of my old colleagues that I worked with in Lincoln.”
Fonseca, a Penn State grad who was born in El Salvador but grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, arrived in Lincoln after spending four years at East Tennessee State. And Nebraska impressed him immediately.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “From the first day I got to Nebraska, I was just wowed by how great the people were. It was just awesome. Everyone here was so in it to win it for Nebraska.”
Fonseca became close to the other trainers on Nebraska’s staff — guys such as Jerry Weber, Doak Ostergard and Derek Clark. He became emotional, he recalled, while in Ostergard’s office when saying goodbye.
“You know, Joser, you don’t have to leave,” Ostergard told him. “Nobody’s forcing you.”
But Fonseca knew the opportunity at Duke was one he couldn’t pass up.
“It was definitely bittersweet,” he said. “But it’s hard to turn down an unbelievable program like this and work for a Hall of Fame coach — the best coach who has ever done it in Coach K. This is my 14th year, and it’s turned out pretty well for me. I’ve been lucky enough to be on two national championship teams and, now, another Elite Eight team. Hopefully, the magic can continue for another week.”
Fonseca said he’s not looking at his return to Nebraska as a time for himself. He’s here for the team, and he’s hoping to see the Blue Devils cap a terrific season with trip to the Final Four.
“Once the game is over, I can see their faces and see their joy,” Fonseca said. “And then I can turn around and look at my wife, her family and my friends. And it’s going to be extra special.”