Andy Janovich and Jack Gangwish have quite a bit in common.
Both were walk-ons at the University of Nebraska. Both saw little (Janovich) or no (Gangwish) playing time in their first two or three years with the program.
Both eventually got their chance to shine. Both took advantage of that opportunity.
Now, both are getting ready to play their final home game at Memorial Stadium when the Huskers host No. 3 Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
There is a lot on the line for both teams. Iowa (11-0) still could end up in the four-team playoff with a win over Nebraska and another victory in the Big Ten Conference championship game.
Nebraska (5-6( will be trying to guarantee a bowl game with its sixth win of the season.
But this game has even more meaning for the 18 seniors -- including Janovich and Gangwish -- who will be going through the tunnel walk for the last time.
It may be the last time for both to wear the Husker uniform.
And you might have to tear it off of them when they’re done.
“It’s gone by really fast,” Janovich said. “I remember sitting in the seats and all the seniors were saying, ‘Hey, enjoy your time here, it’s going to go by really fast.’ And I was just like, ‘OK whatever guys.’ I was a freshman just looking at my watch, like when will I get out of here, and now I don’t want to leave.”
Playing for Nebraska means so much for these Nebraska-raised young men. Gangwish grew up on a farm near Wood River. Janovich, who is from Gretna, is more of a city boy.
They mutual admiration between the two of them is obvious.
Gangwish was asked if there was a senior on the team that really persevered through his career.
“Andy Janovich – no question for me,” Gangwish said. “He’s a guy that came in as a gray shirt kind of hoping he would get a scholarship, but decided to go the walk-on route instead. He’s super consistent. He shows up and goes to work every single day.”
Janovich did that through the first three years despite seeing very little action. The fullback just wasn’t used much in the offense favored by former coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
So Janovich concentrated on being a big-time special teams player.
It took awhile for the new Mike Riley staff to figure out what they had in Janovich. Their offense didn’t use the fullback much either, but the coaching staff came to the conclusion that they had a weapon in Janovich.
He has 36 carries for 239 yards and two touchdowns this season.
“With this staff change, we are seeing a lot more fullbacks in the game,” Gangwish said. “He’s getting a lot more work, a lot more snaps. That’s awesome. I’m so happy for him that things came together this year. He is one of the best athletes on this football team. He stuck with it and really persevered and it’s paid off for him tremendously.”
Gangwish persevered as well. He went through three years, including his redshirt season, without seeing the field. His hope at one point was just to run down the field on kickoff coverage.
But the old staff started to notice him. Pelini pointed to him as a guy who worked hard, had a great motor and never let up.
Gangwish played in 12 games in 2014, including three starts in place of All-American Randy Gregory. He finished the season with 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
He was even named a captain this year and became a go-to player for media members. Gangwish always had something interesting to say, even when times were tough, and there were plenty of those in 2015.
“Jack, that guy is great,” Janovich said. “He’s a go-getter. He works harder than anybody on the team. He never gives up, he’s just got a motor.
“He’s not the guy that I would want across from me. It’s great the way it’s worked out for him. I know with the last coaching staff, he didn’t get quite the opportunity, but now that he’s fallen into the captain’s role, and playing time he’s got now, he’s making the most of it and I’m happy for him.”
Gangwish was injured in the opener against BYU and missed the next three games. He’s played in eight games this year and has 17 tackles, including one sack.
Eighteen seniors will make the tunnel walk for the last time Friday. They’ve been through alot in their time at Nebraska.
The coaching change was hard on all of them, but they adjusted.
“We all loved our former coaches,” Gangwish said. “Coach Bo (Pelini), but that’s not why we are here. We are here to play football. I’m really proud of the way the guys handled that. One thing I’ve learned is that there isn’t a lot of romance in college football. It’s results driven. You’ve got to perform. You’ve got to go out there and do well, especially at a place like Nebraska.”