With all the hype surrounding Trevor Siemian's Denver Broncos debut and linebacker Brandon Marshall's now infamous decision to kneel during the National Anthem, it’s no surprise a lone rookie’s performance easily got kicked to the back burner.
After the 2016 NFL Draft, when gossip was abuzz on whether or not Von Miller would agree to terms on a new contract, Broncos fans patiently waited for head coach Gary Kubiak to work out the offensive kinks. Little did we know that John Elway's questionable sixth round pick appeared to be a blessing in disguise.
Fullback Andy Janovich, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, joined the Broncos during a time highlighted by the team's offensive transition. While many may not have been too convinced on Denver's decision to take the former walk-on over some other viable draft picks, Kubiak and Elway had an inkling that “Jano” might have been the answer to some of their prayers.
Elway himself praised Janovich shortly after making the decision to add him to the roster on Draft Day.
“A tough, hard-nosed player who can block and play special teams," Elway tweeted. "An old school- throwback player.”
It's been anticipated since he took the head coaching position in the Mile High City, that Kubiak would eventually search out a fullback to run his “true offense”. It became even more imperative for Kubiak in this post-Manning era to draft a true fullback and he found his answer in Janovich.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... In fact, Janovich, whom despite being ignored heavily in his sophomore and junior year, didn’t appear on the NFL's radar until 2015, when the Nebraska fullback popped through a hole on 3rd-&-short, thundering 55 yards for his first collegiate touchdown.
As a pro, Janovich himself didn’t know what to expect in his rookie year with the Broncos.
“I’m thrilled about it,” Janovich said earlier this year. “With the whole draft and everything, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I’m really excited to come here.”
In fact, the rookie was so elated to be a part of the World Championship team, he was ready to contribute in any way they felt they needed him to.
“Special teams this last year was just a really huge part of my role in general,” Janovich said. “I’m hoping to just come in and, if special teams is the way I can contribute, then that’s what I’m going to do. I just want to come in and compete with everybody.”
A small town kid from Gretna, Nebraska, the Broncos had no way of knowing how Janovich would perform in his NFL debut. In Denver's regular season opener vs. Carolina, Janovich scored a touchdown on his first carry.
With 12:23 left in the second quarter, Siemian handed off to Janovich on a fullback dive simply intended to pick up short yardage on third down. The rookie fullback thundered through the line of scrimmage, slipping through an attempted tackle to jet 28 yars to the endzone. Mile High stadium erupted in a frenzy.
“It felt pretty good, but I was positive that I was going to get caught from behind,” Janovich said after the game. “I’m not the fastest guy out there.”
Nobody could have predicted the first touchdown of 2016 for the defending Super Bowl Champions would come from the unlikely fullback, but no one could have been happier than Gary Kubiak to see his offensive strategy finally being executed.
Kubiak has designed his offense so the quarterback can focus on “doing his job”. His play design allowed Siemian to simply hand the ball off to Janovich, when the Carolina defense was expecting it to go to C.J. Anderson. In fact, Janovich’s seemingly effortless execution even left the veteran Anderson in awe of the rookie’s standout performance.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1704596-broncos-made-a-statement-... “He just tossed the ball to the ref, but I was like, ‘That’s your first touchdown,'” Anderson said after the win. “I had to run out there and get the ball and give it back to him. I was excited for him.”
As if the touchdown wasn’t impressive enough, what was even more note-worthy was the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder's lead-blocking.
Janovich went toe-to-toe with some of the biggest and baddest players on the Panthers front seven. It was an opportunity not many rookies are equal to in their NFL debut, but nevertheess, as good as Janovich was, he wasn't entirely satisfied with his lead-blocking performance.
“There were some blocks that I didn’t have, but that’s on me," he said. "I have to clean that up so he [Anderson] can run through them.”
All in all, whether this rookie is selling himself short or not, the Broncos can look forward to this Husker being ready to pop opposing linebackers at the point off attack.
Jeannae Elyse Bierstedt is a Columnist for Mile High Huddle. You can find her on Twitter @JeannaeElyse.
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