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Scharping's NIU career still ends with a smile.

Byline: Kaleb Carter Shaw Meida

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- It was a solemn end for the man who has been a constant for Northern Illinois for four years, although there was a smile to end the evening.

Despite the 37-13 loss at the hands of UAB in the Boca Raton Bowl, NIU tackle Max Scharping was able to enjoy a wide grin and a laugh at the end of an emotionally exhausting game.

According to him, it was his idea to jump in a pool in full graduation regalia alongside seven other graduating seniors during the Huskies' trip to their second Boca Raton Bowl. Scharping had the chance to experience the bowl from the sideline the first time in 2014 as a redshirt freshman.

"That was actually my idea, I'll take credit for that one," Scharping said with a laugh. "It's a blessing to be with some of your best friends and to be in a place like Florida to do it is pretty cool."

The recently graduated senior left tackle -- he celebrated his graduation with a Master's degree in exercise physiology in the ceremony held in Boca Raton -- made his 53rd consecutive start at left tackle in the Boca Raton Bowl Tuesday.

That consistency is the type of thing that coach Rod Carey said he loved about the 2018 group of seniors, led by Scharping.

"He's the same guy everyday," Carey said in praise of Scharping. "When you're the same guy everyday, you come to work and he's been one of the guys who has been the same when it comes to that."

"It has meant everything to me because they gave me a shot to play," Scharping said. "I tried to take advantage of it the best I could. These guys and the coaches, they have been my family for the last four and-a-half-years. It's tough to go out like this, but I'll look back on the good times."

Scharping was joined by his roommate of three years in tight end Ty Harmston in celebrating the graduation.

"It has been awesome. I'm really happy for the guy. He's one of my best friends and he deserves a almost every single one of those things he has gotten and been lucky enough to line up for him most of those plays," Harmston said in the lead-up to the Boca Raton Bowl. "He makes my job a lot easier a lot of the time too and that has been really fun and really cool."

Playing alongside lifelong best friends has been an added plus for the senior linemen, who can next set his sights on upcoming Pro Days and a Senior Bowl appearance. Scharping has run up against his fair share of professional caliber defensive players the last few years. He has done enough to garner the recognition of draft board junkies for his brute strength on the game field.

"I didn't think I was going to start this many games or play this many games," Scharping said. "It's beyond my wildest dreams, but you've got to take it day by day and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you."

Just a few accolades heaped upon the 6 foot, 6 inch 320-pound NFL prospect included: three-time first team all-Mid-American Conference selection, being named a Campbell Trophy finalist as one of the top 13 scholar-athlete football players in the country per the National Football Foundation and consistent recognition for community service.

"He gets a lot of the attention and he should because of his play and academic progress," Carey said in November. "He's just one of those guys if my son grows up to be like him, I'm going to consider it a success."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Dec 19, 2018
Words:614
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