Canadian running back Dahrran Diedrick has a glorious opportunity to end a disappointing season with a bang.
The six-foot, 225-pound Toronto native will cap his stay at the University of Nebraska tomorrow night by leading the Cornhuskers into the Independence Bowl against Mississippi, 6-6, in Shreveport, La.
Diedrick is one of three Canadians on Nebraska's roster, joining Patrick Kabongo of Montreal, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound junior defensive tackle, and sophomore kicker Sandro DeAngelis of Niagara Falls, Ont.
A victory against Mississippi would cap an otherwise forgettable season for Nebraska. After reaching the 2001 U.S. college football championship game against Miami, the Cornhuskers had a 7-6 record this season.
Diedrick's production also dropped.
After rushing for 1,229 yards in 2001 -- Diedrick's first season as the I-back in Nebraska's heralded option offence -- the senior running back had 839 yards this season while sharing starting duties with freshman David Horne.
The drop-off couldn't have come at a worse time for Diedrick, Nebraska's first Canadian recruit who is eligible for the 2003 National Football League draft.
Still, Diedrick will get plenty of opportunity to impress NFL officials in the coming weeks.
He is scheduled to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl all-star game in San Francisco next month and is expected to be invited to the Senior Bowl, where each workout is closely monitored by a host of NFL and Canadian Football League officials.
A good showing in those events would go a long way toward Diedrick's being invited to the NFL combine in February, where league officials annually test the top U.S. college football players in preparation for the NFL's draft in April.
The scouting report on Diedrick is that he is a good runner between the tackles and hits holes well.
He also has an impressive combination of size and speed, talents NFL officials seek in trying to establish a reliable rushing attack.
But many scouts are wary of Nebraska running backs, feeling they are merely the byproduct of the option, a formation rarely used in the professional game.
The Cornhuskers' rush-oriented offence also prevented Diedrick from showcasing his ability to catch the football.
Diedrick had only four catches for 19 yards in 13 games this season.
Another factor working against Diedrick is that he doesn't have breakaway speed.
Then again, not much was expected from Ahman Green in 1998 when the Green Bay Packers selected the former Nebraska running back in the third round of the NFL draft.
Green has blossomed into a star, having surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in each of the past three seasons.
And at six feet and 217 pounds, Green bears a striking resemblance to Diedrick, who also wears Green's number, 30, with the Cornhuskers.
If Diedrick doesn't crack an NFL roster, he would have the CFL to fall back on.
The Edmonton Eskimos hold Diedrick's rights after selecting him in the third round of the 2002 Canadian university draft.
Here's a look at other Canadians playing in other U.S. college football bowl games.
Toledo v. Boston College, Motor City Bowl, today.
Toledo has Nick Kaczur of Brantford, Ont., a 6-foot-5, 320-pound sophomore offensive lineman who started as a freshman; Olanzo Jarrett, a 6-foot-1, 208-pound senior safety from Toronto who was taken in the fifth round of the 2002 CFL draft by Edmonton; and Adam Cuomo, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound junior tailback from Hamilton.
Colorado v. Wisconsin, Alamo Bowl, Saturday
Colorado's roster includes Marwan Hage of Montreal, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound junior offensive lineman.
West Virginia v. Virginia, Continental Bowl, tomorrow
Toronto native Dwayne Mundle, a six-foot, 215-pound freshman running back, is on West Virginia's roster.
Wake Forest v. Oregon, Seattle Bowl, on Monday
For Wake Forest: Mark Moroz is a 6-foot-4, 270-pound junior offensive tackle from Welland, Ont.; Ray Thomas is a 6-foot-4, 245-pound starting senior tight end from Hamilton.
For Oregon: Nuvraj Bassi is a 6-foot-5, 256-pound redshirt freshman defensive end from Surrey, B.C.
Maryland v. Tennessee, Peach Bowl, Tuesday
Tennessee has two Canadian players.
Defensive tackle Andre Taylor is a 6-foot-3, 285-pound sophomore from Toronto, while Guillaume Dumont is a 6-foot-4, 285-pound sophomore offensive lineman from Saint-Hubert, Que.
For Maryland, offensive co-ordinator Charlie Taaffe is a former head coach of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.
Iowa State v. Boise State, Humanitarian Bowl, Tuesday
Mike Williams, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound freshman defensive lineman from Lethbridge, Alta., is on Boise State's roster.
Michigan v. Florida, Outback Bowl, Jan. 1
Michigan boasts three Canadians. Emmanuel Casseus is a 6-foot-2, 244-pound senior linebacker from Montreal, Alain Kashama is a 6-foot-5, 259-pound junior defensive end from Montreal and Deitan Dubuc is a 6-foot-4, 248-pound senior tight end from Fabreville, Que., whose CFL rights are owned by the Calgary Stampeders.
LSU v. Texas, Cotton Bowl, Jan.1
Peter Dyakowski of Vancouver, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound freshman defensive lineman is on LSU's roster.
Notre Dame v. North Carolina State, Gator Bowl, Jan.1
Billy Palmer, a 6-foot-4, 251-pound junior tight end from Ottawa, is on Notre Dame's roster. Palmer's brother, Jesse, is a backup quarterback with the NFL's New York Giants.
Washington State v. Oklahoma, Rose Bowl, Jan.1
There are two Canadians on Washington State's roster. Adam Braidwood is a 6-foot-4, 242-pound freshman defensive end from Delta. B.C., while David Lowry is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore linebacker from Lethbridge.
Miami v. Ohio State, Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 3
Three Canadians will be looking to earn their second U.S. college championship with Miami.
Brett Romberg of Windsor, Ont., is a 6-foot-3, 297-pound senior centre and the winner of the Rimington Trophy as U.S. college football's top player at that position. Sherko Haji-Rasouli, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound senior offensive lineman from Toronto was a starter this season, but didn't play in last year's championship game because of a knee injury. Joe McGrath from Moose Jaw was contending for a starting spot before the season, but was injured and relegated to backup duties.
Ohio State has one Canadian, Mike Roberts, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound freshman defensive back from Toronto.