LINCOLN — Nebraska senior Andy Janovich nearly lost his balance as he reached to secure a catch in the flat during the preseason’s first scrimmage. The defenders had to be hoping he’d trip.
Janovich is the 6-foot-1, 230-pound fullback whose specialty is violent collisions — he blocks with the intention of making opponents second-guess their responsibilities. He has been known to head-butt without a helmet in the locker room, most often voluntarily banging the skull of his backup, Harrison Jordan.
Suddenly, that bulldozer — the same one who tweeted in July that he can do 52 successive reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (the NFL combine record is 51) — had the ball in his hands.
“I didn’t even know what to do,” Janovich said.
Neither did the defense.
Attempts to bring him down failed. Janovich successfully navigated through arm-tackles as he sprinted down the sideline for about 30 yards and rumbled across the goal line.
“It was nice,” Janovich said, holding back a smile.
Janovich could get more opportunities to replicate that scamper on Saturdays.
He’s still a fullback — “hitting and blocking” remain his top priorities, Janovich said — but he’s not sure if his role will increase in the new offense. His handful of highlights in preseason camp seem to suggest that the Gretna product could have more of an impact, maybe as an H-back. Janovich already has the endorsement of Nebraska defenders.
Senior cornerback Daniel Davie said his first Janovich experience happened a couple of years ago. “That didn’t end very well,” Davie said.
“I kind of try to stay clear of him when he’s on the field,” Davie said. “We kind of have an unwritten rule in the room that we don’t tackle him. We stay away from Jano.”
Some ambitious newbies have had to learn the hard way, though.
Junior linebacker Josh Banderas said he’ll see the same young guys who went full-speed, head-up into their first collision with Janovich approach the second meeting with some adjustments — like turning their shoulder inside to absorb the brunt of the blow.
Banderas has taken on Janovich many times. His description of the experience: “Terrible. Absolutely horrible.”
Those reactions are exactly what Janovich is seeking.
One of the benefits of limited playing time is the ability to ensure maximum physicality on every snap. Forget fatigue, soreness and uncertainty. He doesn’t want to waste a chance to drain some aggressiveness from opponents by greeting them with a flawlessly executed pancake block.
“I just kind of had to know right away that any chance I could get to help the team, I’ve got to play my best,” Janovich said. “It’s not going to be every down. I’ve got to make reps count.”
He’s already set to play on every special teams unit, aside from the extra point group. And if he receives more snaps offensively, so be it.
Janovich has three career catches. He has three carries. He’s fine with that. His favorite individual highlight as a Husker is a block he had on an unsuspecting Iowa linebacker in 2012.
That’s his desired reputation, anyway. To be one who seeks out contact and leaves an impression.
“Always looking for more,” Janovich said. “I don’t want to go out there and just get a block. I want to make the other guy not want me to come back, you know?”
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