When the Denver Broncos selected Andy Janovich in the sixth round, it was clear that he was going to fit into some sort of blocking role for Gary Kubiak. His tough, hard nosed attitude is exactly what you'd hope for from a guy at that position.
We caught up with our friends at Corn Nation to talk about one of their fan favorites and how Janovich might fit in with the Broncos in 2016 and beyond. Or they might just goof around in a Google Doc for some good laughs.
We'll start with this little tidbit about Janovich from March.
In August, 2015 Billy Devaney(now Nebraska’s director of player personnel) was a scout for the Atlanta Falcons. While visiting Lincoln he asked longtime friend and new Husker head coach Mike Riley about upcoming prospects. Coach Riley repeatedly mentioned a name not even on Billy’s list to scout. After seeing some film, he and others in Atlanta were sold and hoped to keep the player a secret.
A few weeks later: The word was out. Janovich showcased every hidden talent and then some with a masterful, breakout performance in Nebraska’s last-minute loss to Wisconsin. “That young man kept running up and down the field,” Devaney said. “He was catching passes, running the ball, blocking and scoring. I’m screaming at the TV and asking Mike what he’s doing with my super-sleeper draft pick. Now the whole world knows about our hidden guy.
Mile High Report: Fans were very excited about the Broncos’ pick of Andy Janovich because it signals the genuine plan to implement a “true Kubiak offense” with heavy use of the running game, especially with a fullback, and lots of offensive blockers. This could make Janovich a possible starter next year or at least a very important piece of the offense soon. Do you think he has the goods to be a starting NFL fullback either this year or eventually?
Ranchbabe (Jill): One of my favorite Huskers ended up with my favorite NFL team, so remember that when you read my, ummm enthusiastic, answers.
Jano really whetted Husker fans’ appetites his freshman year when he was bulldozing the way for a couple of talented backs by the names of Burkhead and Abdullah (Bengals and Lions respectively). For some reason, which Husker fans credit to the “Tim Beck Effect”, Andy was largely ignored his sophomore and junior seasons. For the uninitiated, the Beck Effect goes something like “OMG this is working so well! We should do something different before defenses figure it out and stop it!” Ohio State fans understand this all too well as they got Beck’d in 2015.
Nebraska’s new, naive Pac 12 coach accidentally (not really) called a few fullback traps in one non-conference game early in Andy’s senior year.. Once he unleashed the fullback, there was no going back. Nebraska has a proud fullback history and Coach Riley was going to be nagged at every postgame press conference about Andy’s plays or lack thereof. Riley chose the path of least resistance and continued to work him into the game plan.
Joe Canale: It could be argued that Janovich was Nebraska’s best player last year, when you account for his performance on special teams in addition to his fullback duties. I think his rise from walk on to the NFL draft speaks to his work ethic and honestly the bar for starting NFL fullback isn’t incredibly high, so yes he has the goods.
Greg: Looking at this from a now unbiased position (HERE WE GO STEELERS HERE WE GO!), there’s no reason to believe otherwise that Jano has the talent and the ability to succeed in the NFL. He has blocked for NFL-caliber running backs. He has ran behind some NFL-caliber linemen. He is a physical specimen with the work ethic to only get better.
Andy Ketterson: He’s ready. If you put him on an episode of Naked & Afraid, he’d grab a club, stay naked and the animals would be afraid.
Mile High Report: Do you agree with the weaknesses? And will these be major roadblocks or just areas needing improvement/adjustment? What other major strengths or weaknesses would you add?
Jill: Strengths - Yes. He absolutely plays faster than his measurables (4.8 in the 40), but the NFL game is an entirely different beast. If the Kubes offense is running as it should, the LBs should be reacting instead of attacking, which gives guys like Jano and CJ an advantage despite not being ‘speedsters’. Weaknesses - he is pretty light for a fullback. However, he out-benched most of the offensive linemen at the NFL combine (a quick glance shows 4 OL put up more than Jano’s 30 reps in the benchpress and 5 tied him). Other strengths and weaknesses? He will look damn fine as a bronze statue someday. As a matter of fact, the Huskers and Broncos front offices probably need to start talking about their respective statue designs now so they don’t end up with something too similar. That would be awkward.
Joe: I agree with your scouting report. I don’t think he will be overwhelmed by the pass routes he will need to learn and the injury concerns sound like the same injury concerns every football player has. I’d add that he has a pretty appropriate name for a fullback, which is always a plus. And the guy just got drafted, I’m not gonna rain on his parade and list weaknesses. He is going to read this, right?
Greg: Jill is under the impression that the pipeline should run straight from Lincoln to Invesco’s Sports Authority Bankruptcy Field at Mile High. This is problematic when discussing erection (STOP IT!) of statues before a young man has played a single pro snap. That being said, yes, Jano is insanely strong, and it will be his strength he will rely on at this level. I’m encouraged by his size, or lack thereof. I think it will allow him to get under some of the bigger linebackers, where the leverage game can benefit someone of his strength.
Andy: Strengths - agree. Weaknesses - Armstrong once threw a pass to him a little too hard, so Jano fired it back and knocked Tommy out cold. They were scared to pass to him after that, so his abilities in that area are somewhat of an unknown. Larger LB’s are not an issue - as long as their co-pay has a low deductible, they’ll be fine. Injury concerns because of his play? Yes, but not to him.
Mile High Report: How has Janovich improved over his four years at Nebraska?
Jill: See my response to question 1.
Joe: See Jill’s response to question 1.
Greg: See Joe’s response referencing Jill’s...actually, no. Allow me. I think one of Jano’s bigger accomplishments would be that he grew into more of a leader. I tell you what: you go from walk-on to scholarship athlete, from scholarship athlete to being drafted by the defending Super Bowl Champions. We call that part of the intangibles. I would say that among other things, Jano grew as a leader in the locker room.
Andy: When his physical strength peaked to the limits of human anatomy, he chose to improve himself in other disciplines. He can now peel bananas and lift the front ends of light cargo trucks with his mind.
Mile High Report: How do you think Janovich’s wrestling background helped him in college football and how could/will it help him in the NFL? Is it an advantage of sorts when it comes to blocking?
Jill: I am not sure if his wrestling background helps here or if his natural instincts and athleticism helped him be a good wrestler, but his understanding of leverage is excellent and he definitely has good balance. He is not a fullback that just rumbles forward, he has some wiggle to him, especially when carrying the ball. His ability to tackle on special teams is probably helped by his wrestling background.
Joe: Wrestling will be helpful if a small bear breaks into the locker room. Also I’m guessing he knows how to get into a unitard pretty easily, if that comes up.
Greg: See my response about leverage.
Andy: Along with the bear thing, he also knows all the words to Lunatic Fringe like every good wrestler should.
Mile High Report: Janovich said he modeled his game after Cory Schlesinger, a two-year starting fullback for Nebraska in the mid-90s who played 13 years in the NFL. Do you see Janovich having similar success in the pros?
Jill: To be brutally honest, a 13-year career as an NFL fullback seems like a recipe for serious brain damage. I don’t see many guys duplicating Schlesinger’s longevity. Janovich might be more athletic than most fullbacks and I see the potential for him to develop into a Swiss Army Knife. Given the amount of screen passes Paxton Lynch threw in his college career and the limited film I have seen of Jano in the pass game, I am drooling in anticipation for Kubes to unleash that wrinkle.
Joe: I agree with Jill that 13 years seems like a reach, but I feel like he is going to be productive and last in the league for a number of years. I’m gonna go out on a limb and give him at least one pro bowl appearance, especially since 75% of the league makes it because of injuries every year.
Greg: Eight years, two Pro Bowls. One Super Bowl ring (team undetermined).
Andy: Football will bore him after 4-5 years at which time, he will swim to Cuba and throw any remaining Castro sympathizers into the Caribbean.
Mile High Report: What is Janovich like off the field? As a teammate?
Jill: A fellow Nebraska native walk-on who worked his way into a starting role tweeted this picture of Janovich.Presented without any further commentary.
Joe: I’ve never met him off the field. I hope he is less intense off the field. I feel like fullbacks are almost all good teammates, as you would have to be, considering the personal sacrifice needed at the position and I don’t think they give out scholarships to walk on’s who are jerks.
Greg: I’m in complete agreement with Joe (and I’m a little concerned as to why Jill had that picture so readily available).
Andy: Pack member is probably a more accurate description than teammate.
Mile High Report: Janovich seems like a tough player willing to work really hard for the team. Is this how we was at Nebraska?
Jill: As a senior, he won the Tom Novak award; presented to the senior who "best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds in the manner of Nebraska All-America center Tom Novak." He also received the “Lunch Bucket” award and “Lifter of the Year” award from the coaching staff and strength/conditioning staff respectively.
Greg: He reminds me a lot of Danny Woodhead (do I get drawn and quartered for saying that name around here?)[Editorial Note: Yes.]. He will do whatever it takes, whatever he can, to help the team. All indications are that he’s an ideal teammate who just wants to see the team succeed.
Andy: Yes. He’s one of those rare guys who managed to become a home-grown legend in that regard while still on the roster.
Mile High Report: What is an interesting fact about Janovich that we haven’t likely heard about him?
Jill: He inspired an entire movement of Husker twitter and message board posts about the “Legend of Andy Janovich”. When Andy Janovich walks by a construction site, nails pound themselves. The dark is afraid of Andy Janovich. Andy Janovich won a staring contest with a mirror.
Here are quotes from a couple of Husker defensive players on their experiences tackling Jano:
"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.”
Joe: I don’t know any. I could lie, but I value the integrity of the profession of journalism too much to do that.
Greg: I mean...he gets his own Rocky Mountain Oysters. What else do you need to know?
Andy: He once ate a Smart Car on a dare.
Mile High Report: Does he have a nickname? Jano, perhaps?
Jill: Yes, the main one I see is Jano.
Joe: I’m going to propose a new one: Vichee. I doubt it will catch on.
Greg: I think most of my above referencing is calling him “Jano.” I’d stick with that.
Mile High Report: Favorite quality about this kid?
Jill: See all of the above; plus the fact that Chuck Norris has Andy Janovich check his closets every night to chase away monsters.
Joe: He is a perfect representation of the Heart of the Cornhusker program, local walk-on who worked hard and reaped the rewards of that hard work.
Greg: Joe encapsulated my views exactly. He’s the type of person that Nebraska fans crave to have represent “their” football team.
Andy: Just represented toughness every time he stepped on the field.
Mile High Report: On a scale of zero to Howard Griffith, where would Janovich rank as a fullback?
Jill: I became a Broncos fan long before I moved to Nebraska and was assimilated into Cornhusker culture. At the time, I failed to appreciate Howard Griffith and was focused on John Elway, Terrell Davis, and the Smiling Assassin. As mentioned above, Nebraskans love their fullbacks and that helped me retroactively appreciate Griffith. Therefore, my scale goes from 0 to Schlesinger. In that, Janovich rates a “Mackovicka+” and optimistically a “Rathman-” (as far as NFL career potential; the scale would be different if looking at college production).
Joel Mackovicka was a home-grown Husker who played 4 years in the pros (Cardinals). Tom Rathman was a multi-sport high school star in Nebraska (like Jano). Rathman won a state high school championship in the high jump and played nine years in the NFL (49ers) and won two Superbowls. As a matter of fact, Rathman was lead blocker in San Fran for another Husker fullback (who moved back to his natural RB position in the pros) by the name of Roger Craig.
I see Jano being able to get a second contract and hopefully help the Broncos pick up another Lombardi or two along the way.
Also, when Andy Janovich hits someone, their great-grandchildren are born with bruises.
Joe: This has to be the first time that Howard Griffith was included as the high mark in a scale. I’m gonna be optimistic and say Janovich will be like the “11” on the amp in Spinal Tap. Also, I can’t imagine how in depth your profile on Paxton Lynch is if this is how deep you go for your 6th round fullback.
Greg: Jill needs grounded a bit on the Andy Janovich/Chuck Norris comparisons. As far as similarities to Peter Griffin, I would say that Jano is the better fullback. (Peter played Center for the Patriots in that one episode...SHIPOOPIE!)
Andy: I’ll rate him Terminator. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And he will absolutely not stop, ever, until you are pancaked. Or there’s a whistle - because late hit & mauling penalties are bad for the team.
There you have it. Thank you to the folks from Corn Nation for taking the time to provide a great many serious answers and for giving us insight into what it's like to be a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.
May the legend of Andy Janovich continue to grow from the epic proportions his legend has grown out in Lincoln.