• Video: >See Monday's Husker press conference
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LINCOLN — Nebraska assistant Ron Brown said the coaching staff knew from the start that Andy Janovich might be able to help the Huskers, but had to first weigh the pros and cons of using the fullback as a freshman.
As the deliberations carried on, however, Janovich just kept making it tougher and tougher to decide against it.
Never going away. Always on the come. Relentless to the whistle.
“He's not a two-time state champion wrestler for nothing,” Brown said Monday. “He's got a lot of grit and determination.”
And now one heck of an opportunity ahead of him, as well.
Nebraska turned Janovich loose Saturday against Idaho State after holding him out of the first three games. The walk-on from Gretna not only played but came out with the NU offense for the very first snap.
“It was pretty awesome,” Janovich said.
It was also just the start.
The first of hundreds of collisions that will follow for the “rocked-up” 6-foot-1, 215-pounder who savors the contact. The first of possibly many rushing attempts and pass receptions for a versatile fullback who Brown isn't afraid to compare with past NU greats such as Cory Schlesinger or the Makovicka brothers.
“He can run, he can catch, he can do a lot of things,” Brown said. “Fullbacks tend to be not quite as athletic as him. I think he has the nature and the mentality of one, but I think God has given him an extra dose of athletic ability for that position.
“Only the Lord knows how it's all going to turn out but, boy, from what I've seen, in the 22 years that I've been here, I think he has a chance to be special.”
The same goes for his story.
Janovich initially committed to the University of Nebraska at Kearney before drawing his NU interest. He was a World-Herald All-Nebraska pick at linebacker for Gretna in 2011, but also rushed for 800 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior season.
Speaking of linebackers, one of his uncles is former Husker tough guy Jerry Murtaugh, who played from 1968 through 1970. What does he know about Murtaugh's playing style? “Just mean, is what I've heard,” Janovich said.
The second youngest of nine children also went 46-0 and 53-0 his final two wrestling seasons as a two-time Class B state champ, and he was actually recruited by the Huskers in that sport. The leverage, aggressiveness and toughness he brought to the mat have served him well in football.
“He stays low, he keeps his legs moving,” NU linebacker Will Compton said. “He's going to be a good football player.”
First, Husker coach Bo Pelini said, there will be some learning and growing to do. But the staff upped his practice repetitions in preparation for Idaho State and told him last Wednesday that he would play against the Bengals.
“We made the determination that he's capable of helping us mentally and physically,” Pelini said. “We'll probably need one more fullback as the year goes on (with Mike Marrow and C.J. Zimmerer). We have confidence in Andy and what he brings to the table.”
Janovich certainly knows the long road ahead.
He never had to worry about things such as footwork and technique when he used to just run people over. Something as simple as going wide of backup quarterback Bronson Marsh cost him a fumbled handoff on one of his three carries Saturday.
Janovich had to catch up in August with his teammates because he wasn't working out with the rest of the Huskers over the summer in preparation for preseason practice.
But he gave the Husker staff a taste of his potential right away, then just kept coming with more of it. Brown said Janovich seemed to be gliding around almost effortlessly during camp.
Brown in the same sentence manages to call Janovich “a sweet kid” but also somebody who's “extremely competitive and tenacious.” Unsure of all the sudden attention, Janovich even came into Brown's office on Monday and wondered if he had to meet some of the media interview requests.
It's part of the process, Brown told him. Keep it short and simple and go back to work. It's worked pretty well for him so far.
But Janovich also admits that Saturday was special. Something he had been waiting for and dreaming about.
“I just try to put it behind me now,” he said. “It's cool to start and all, but it was Idaho State and now we got Wisconsin this week. So it's a big week for us.”
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