LINCOLN — It didn't take long for fullback Andy Janovich to go from walk-on to scholarship football player at Nebraska.
The transition was as fast as any of the 26 walk-ons whom Bo Pelini has put on scholarship in his six years as coach of the Huskers.
Janovich is a sophomore from Gretna who played last season as a true freshman. Because Pelini announced the seven scholarship players by class Saturday in a post-practice team meeting, Janovich was the first called forward on the Memorial Stadium turf.
Janovich said it's something he'll remember for a long time.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “That way everybody knows that happened. It just wasn't in Coach Bo's office and kind of quiet.”
Janovich, junior Mark Pelini and seniors Brodrick Nickens and Colby Starkebaum go on scholarship for the first time when fall semester starts Monday. Seniors Jake Long, Wil Richards and Ron Kellogg will have their scholarships renewed after getting them for the spring semester.
Four of the seven are Nebraskans — Janovich, Nickens, Long and Kellogg. Long, a tight end from Elkhorn, follows his twin brother, Spencer, a guard who went on scholarship before last season.
Jake Long is the Huskers' top returning tight end. Spencer Long is a third-year starter who was a second-team All-American a year ago.
“It's pretty special, isn't it?” Bo Pelini said. “They came in, took their opportunity and made the most of it.”
Mark Pelini, Bo's nephew, has been battling Cole Pensick through fall camp for the starting job at center. Even growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Mark Pelini said, he knew of NU's walk-on tradition.
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“If you come here and you work real hard and perform, you have a chance,” he said. “It's one of those things you work for.”
Nickens, a defensive tackle from Alliance, moved over from the offensive line in spring practice and is expected to be a key contributor this fall. Richards, a defensive back from Lee's Summit, Mo., is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten pick who has helped on special teams the past two seasons.
Kellogg, a quarterback from Omaha Westside, has been a sidekick and confidant for starter Taylor Martinez the past few seasons. Pelini called him a leader in the program.
“He's done everything we've asked him to,” Pelini said. “That's where it starts. He's a great guy to have on your football team.
“He's about this football team. He's probably Taylor's biggest supporter. You watch him out there — helping the young kids and bringing guys along — he's just a guy who gets it.”
Starkebaum is a linebacker from Sterling, Colo., and the son of a former Husker. John Starkebaum played for Nebraska in the 1970s after being coached by future NU assistant Milt Tenopir in high school in Haxtun, Colo.
Colby Starkebaum, also a special teams regular, said he couldn't wait to call his parents when he got to the locker room.
“They'll be just as excited as I am,” he said. “It's going to be awesome.”
Normally, only a few walk-ons are promoted each August, so Starkebaum wasn't sure about his chances as he waited until the last name was called.
“When the other players' names got announced I was getting excited for them, just because I've been around them for so long and I know how much they put the sweat and blood and everything else into the program,” he said. “But it's exciting just because of how hard I've worked up to this point, and to be able to finally be like, 'It paid off to stick with it in the long run.' ”
Bo Pelini said it's satisfying every August to reward some walk-ons who “have the same requirements of the kids that are on scholarship” but don't get the same luxuries and financial aid. Sometimes the choices are hard, he said, because he sees a number of deserving candidates.
But the walk-on program, he said, is what makes Nebraska “special and different.”
“The walk-on tradition continues,” Pelini said, “and it will continue forever because it's an important part of this place.”