Josh Banderas has been hearing football stories all his life.
“I’ve grown up around all my dad’s friends, listening to them tell stories,” the son of former Husker tight end Tom Banderas said. “When you hear their stories, you always cut it in half.
“But I want to experience the college thing like they did. I get to hear their stories and then I get to make my own.”
Last spring, Banderas committed to accept a football scholarship from Nebraska. Until then, he will be making stories at Lincoln Southwest. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound first-team Super-State linebacker will add running back duties this year.
“I played running back every year until my sophomore year, when I kind of toned it down and I played a little last year,” Banderas said. “I love playing running back and being able to do something with the ball. I’m going to have to be in really good condition.”
What should help Banderas and his Silver Hawk teammates is the arrival of Christian Lacouture. The 6-5, 255-pound defensive end/tight end committed to Nebraska, got to know Banderas, then decided to finish his high school career at Southwest.
Banderas and Lacouture, who will be roommates at Nebraska, hit it off right from the start. Nebraska coaches called on Banderas when Lacouture and other recruits visited NU.
“Coach (Barney) Cotton called me and I hung out with Christian. He committed that day and I got his number,” Banderas said. “We started texting and got to know each other. It was real comfortable, right from the beginning.”
Lacouture had just completed his junior year at A&M Consolidated in College Station, Texas.
“When I was committed to A&M, my family and I thought College Station was a good place to stay,” Lacouture said. “Then, when Coach (Mike) Sherman left to coach (for) the Miami Dolphins, things opened up.
“It came down to Nebraska, LSU and Michigan. I just like the town here, the people and the university. It’s the best in the country — the coaches, the facilities, the tradition and the academics.”
So Lacouture will play for a third different high school. As a sophomore, he played for Odessa Permian in Texas and then at A&M Consolidated. After graduating this December, he plans to enroll at Nebraska.
“Being in three different programs isn’t as hard as you might think. You just work hard to help your team,” he said.
Banderas said he knows he and Lacouture will get everybody’s best effort this year, and being high-profile players can take a toll.
“Most people want to target the Husker people,” he said. “With two Huskers on our team, you know there will be people who want to be able to say, ‘I beat a Husker.’ But the spotlight isn’t that bright. All my friends know me as Josh, not Josh the Husker.”
LaCouture said he relishes the extra attention from opponents.
“The great thing about it is, is that if I’m double-teamed, it means somebody else has a one-on-one to the quarterback or they’re free. That helps the team,” he said.
Banderas said that while seeing an opponent run to the opposite side of the field is frustrating, there are advantages.
“I have the best part of it. We have three potential all-staters on the defensive line, with three 300-pounders in the middle, and Tyler (Hoppes) and Christian on the ends,” he said. “That takes up all the linemen and I’m free to roam.”
Defense will be the emphasis for both players, although each relishes the chance to play offense.
“Playing offense this year will be a fun thing. I’ll probably never get to play it again,” Banderas said. “Defense is just going out and playing. You just go get the ball.”
“On defense, you know your instincts and what to do,” he said. “Like Josh said, just go get the ball.”
For both players, down time is important as well.
“I like to hang with friends, play ping pong, video games or pool. But football comes up in some way almost every time. That competitive streak shows up,” Banderas said.
“We play this challenge with ping pong. I got last and ended up with a mouthful of spray cheese,” Lacouture said. “It wasn’t the best thing to have happen. I’m not very good right now, so I have to get it going.”