Despite four long, difficult seasons, Joshua Birmingham said it's hard to believe Saturday marks the end of his college football career.
“It's gone quicker than I thought it would,” said the University of Central Oklahoma running back. “I haven't anticipated this at all.”
The four-year starter never enjoyed a winning season as the Bronchos struggled through a transition of going from the tough Lone Star Conference to the even-tougher Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In fact, Birmingham has never played for a UCO team that won more than two games in a season, although the Bronchos have a chance to finish 3-7 in 2013 with a triumph Saturday afternoon against Northeastern State in Tahlequah.
Still, the Luther product will go down as one of the finest running backs in UCO's otherwise distinguished football history. Birmingham needs 199 yards in his final game to become the Division II school's all-time rusher. Steve Tate, another former Luther standout, tops the list with 4,360 yards over the 1977-80 seasons. Birmingham has 4,162.
“I have a chance, but it would take a lot of effort,” Birmingham said.
Birmingham signed with Wyoming out of high school but transferred to Central Oklahoma with hopes of playing with his brother, Ben Birmingham. Joshua wound up redshirting freshman year, and then he started a climb through many of UCO's all-time charts. During his debut in August 2010 against powerful Pittsburg State (Kan.), Birmingham ran for 111 yards and had 63 yards and a touchdown receiving.
And he just kept getting better, often running behind an offensive line peppered with injuries and inexperience.
“My time here has been outstanding, even with the seasons we've had,” Birmingham said. “I absolutely have no regrets coming here, and I'm proud to be part of the Broncho tradition. It's just a bittersweet moment for me knowing it's about to end.”
Birmingham said the next chapter focuses on the NFL. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder wants to give pro ball a shot, whether he becomes the 19th player in UCO history to get drafted or he signs as a free agent. Birmingham has talked to a few scouts who want him to participate in a pro day.
“It's been my life dream to play in the NFL,” he said. “People from my hometown would say I was too small to do something like that. It bothered me, so I used it as motivation and now I'm closer than ever.”
*Southwestern State tight end Ryan Corbin is a Tony Gonzalez guy. Corbin said his game resembles that of the Atlanta Falcons star. “He can do it all,” Corbin said. “Catch passes, block ... I can block, too, although I prefer to catch the ball.” The numbers support the latter — the 6-4, 250-pound senior out of Newcastle leads Southwestern receivers in catches (67), yards (809) and touchdowns (6).