DITKA. A NAME THAT JUMPS FROM THE ANNALS OF football history and
hits like he did -- head-on.
Csonka. Another name that conjures images of hard-nosed play. Your
nose or his? He didn't care.
Miska. Miska? That would be Auburn sophomore middle linebacker
Jason Miska, a walk-on whose gridiron disposition fits the mold of
NFL Hall-of-Famers Mike Ditka and Larry Csonka. Miska led Auburn in
tackles this year with 125. Says coach Terry Bowden, ''He'd just as
soon fight you as look at you.''
Kafka. Another name to which Miska can be linked: Miska's
belligerent attitude toward ballcarriers can be traced to a
Kafkaesque metamorphosis during his adolescence. His parents, Jan and
Yvonne, high school teachers in Bridgeport, Conn., say Jason was
bright and obedient until high school. ''Then,'' says Yvonne, ''he
gave us four years of hell.''
What happened? ''Many of his friends were from broken homes,''
Yvonne explains. ''He resented us for having an intact family. And
often we felt that the reason for his rage was because he wasn't
Rage meant fights and plenty of them. Miska says that he and his
buddies would jump people ''just for the thrill of it.'' Once during
his senior year Miska nearly experienced his last thrill. Having
beaten up a teen who had bullied a younger friend of his earlier in
the day, Miska was attending a basketball game at his school when
his adversary found him. Asked to step outside, Miska obliged. ''He
pulled out a .38 and shot at me,'' says Miska. ''I ducked and rolled
out of the way, but the bullet hit our janitor in the leg.''
''He literally dodged the bullet,'' says Yvonne. Fearing that
there would be others with their son's name on them, Jan and Yvonne,
who had close friends in Alabama, offered Jason a choice: He could go
to college at either Auburn or Alabama or ''volunteer'' for the
military. ''Or,'' recalls Yvonne, ''jail.''
Miska, who scored 1,190 on his SAT, was virtually unrecruited out
of high school after missing his senior year to shoulder surgery.
But, he says, ''I couldn't quit football. I love it too much.'' So,
as a freshman, he walked on. Says Bowden, ''We underestimated him at
first because he was a walk-on. We saw him as just a gritty guy
giving it his all. But he can play.''
Miska and his parents agree that going to college and playing
football may have saved his life. ''My life's not totally together
yet,'' says Jason. ''But now I save my fights for the football
field.'' -- J.W.
This is an article from the Dec. 17, 1993 issue