You may have heard of C.J. Zimmerer and Andy Janovich.
Both play football at Nebraska. Both play in the backfield.
But there are no more anonymous “skill position” players than a fullback in the Nebraska offense.
Zimmerer, a senior from Omaha Gross, and Janovich, a sophomore from Gretna, have remarkably similar statistics...as in no carries for no yards.
Zimmerer does have one catch this year for two yards. He carried the ball four times for 16 yards with one catch for six yards in 2012.
Janovich had three carries for six yards and two catches for 13 yards a year ago, but has yet to touch the ball this season.
Zimmerer doesn’t mind toiling away in anonymity. In fact, he prefers it that way.
“That’s one of the things I like about it,” Zimmerer said. “I don’t like being in the spot light or anything. I like to be able to do my job, take care of business and not get any credit for it.
“If we’re getting 300 yards rushing, scoring a lot of touchdowns, that means I’m doing my job. If the other guys are getting a lot of publicity, that’s a good thing.”
The primary responsibility of the fullback is to block for the quarterbacks, like redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong, and running backs. Junior I-back Ameer Abdullah has already rushed for 1,213 yards on 184 carries for an average of 6.6 per attempt, Abdullah certainly appreciates what the fullbacks do for the offense.
“The fullbacks are greatly under appreciated in this program,” Abdullah said. “Andy Janovich and C.J. Zimmerer are doing an outstanding job this season. They never get their names in the highlights. They are never talked about when the stats are brought up. It’s always me. It’s always Imani (Cross). It’s always Tommy.
“You know that’s something that really goes unnoticed here. Football is the ultimate team sport. Without 11 members on the field working together, nothing can be achieved so individual stats are just for the fans I guess.”
Both Zimmerer and Janovich got plenty of carries in high school.
Zimmerer rushed for 1,325 yards and 17 touchdowns and averaged over 10 yards a carry in his senior season at Gross.
Janovich, who went 99-0 in his final two years of high school wrestling, rushed for 799 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior at Gretna.
“It was a little difficult at first to go from getting 15 to 20 carries a game in high school to never seeing the ball at all,” Zimmerer said. “It was definitely a process, but I really enjoy how it is as a fullback now. I really enjoy blocking and getting other guys in the end zone.
“You think about it every now and then. I want the ball here or there, but if I do I do and if I don’t I don’t.”
But now, if you watch the ball during a game, you probably won’t notice Zimmerer or Janovich. Zimmerer suggested he wouldn’t know what to do with the ball.
“I think if you try to hand me the ball now I’d feel pretty awkward definitely,” Zimmerer said. “You always have to be ready if you get a chance to do that, but you have to focus on the things that are more important.”
Zimmerer can see the end of his football career rapidly approaching. The Huskers host division leader Michigan State on Saturday, then after traveling to Penn State they will have their home and regular-season finale Nov. 29 against Iowa.
Zimmerer said running backs coach Ron Brown tells his players to appreciate their time at Nebraska.
“Every game, especially the way the last two have gone, you’re going to remember,” Zimmerer said. “Coach Brown tells us all the time, you’re going to remember every play 20 or 30 years down the road, so I’m really just trying to savor it. Every time I come out of the tunnel walk, I’m really trying to savor it because it will be over before we know it. This season has flown by. The last five years have flown by. I’m trying to enjoy every bit of it.”
It’s different for a younger player like Janovich, who has more than two full seasons left to play.
“You definitely appreciate it more now,” Zimmerer said. “When you’re 18 and you’re a freshman, you just want to go. You want things to happen. You want to start playing. Now definitely you want it to slow down. The best way is just take it week to week and enjoy your stay here.”