Unsung Hero Makes His Mark on Special Teams

There was a time when safety Brett Nenaber, much like any other walk-on, had to pay his dues. These days the former Tempe Corona Del Sol player is enjoying much-earned respect as the Sun Devils hard-hitting player on the kickoff team. We caught up with the senior after Tuesday's practice to get some insight on the life of a walk-on player living out his dream.

Born and raised in Tempe Brett Nenaber naturally grew up rooting for the maroon and gold. As an honorable mention all-region safety and quarterback in high school, he had his chances of playing at smaller college programs or junior colleges when he graduated. Nonetheless, there was little doubt in his mind that he would attend the university located just ten minutes from his high school.

"It really makes it easy growing up here and having your family supporting you and taking pride in what you do," said the 6-1 211 Nenaber. "My high school coaches come out and watch me…it's a lot of fun. ASU is where I always wanted to play and when I got the option to come here it was an easy decision. If I didn't come here, I'd be wondering my whole life ‘could have I done it and made the team?'

Nenaber played in his second game this year (the first one being against San Diego State) last Saturday, when Arizona State hosted Oregon State. The safety registered his first two tackles of the season, both on special teams and did so in impressive fashion that caught the eye of ASU's broadcast team and the schools fans alike.

"It was a fun being out there on special teams," Nenaber commented. "I was just having fun out there trying to make some plays. Playing on the kickoff team is just all about going out there giving all your effort, and making sure you do the drills correctly in practice. You just try to be the first person to get to the returner. You need to be fast, but a lot of it is about effort. That's what it really comes down to – going as hard as you can."

Nenaber efforts paid off as the two tackles he was on limited the Beaver returners to modest gains of 18 and 20 yards respectively.

No matter how talented a player you are, or the fact that you're a local player extremely familiar with the Sun Devils, life as a walk-on is far from being an easy task. "It's hard. The first couple of years were definitely tough, but it's something that I enjoy," said Nenaber. "I like the challenge of it, and playing here is something I take a lot of pride in because not a lot of guys can do what you're doing."

When asked about the biggest differences between scholarship and walk-on players, the monthly stipend check was the first thing Nenaber uttered. "I don't get my rent paid for," he stated laughing. "The respect issue – you really have to earn it in the beginning. I'm not saying that you have to work harder than the other players, but you definitely have to give it all you got everyday. After my redshirt sophomore year I became one of the guys and earned that respect. But I have enjoyed every year that I've been here."

Nenaber actually had some flashes of brilliance at safety during fall camp, but the depth at his position has him strictly on special teams duties for now. The senior is content and thankful with whatever assignment he needs to carry out.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time, one practice at a time," he said. "Every chance I get out there, whether it's at safety or special teams, I'm gonna give it all I have and just enjoy. Whatever my role will be, that's where I'm gonna be playing as hard as I can."

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