Anthony Banderas has heard Husker stories his whole life.
First from his dad, Tom, and then from his brother, Josh.
Now, he’ll be able to tell his own.
The Lincoln Southwest linebacker is spurning a scholarship offer to South Dakota and walking on at Nebraska, where he’ll become the third Banderas to play football for the Huskers.
“I had to think about it because South Dakota was a full ride, but I talked to my dad and my brother about it and I just have to know what it’s like to walk out of that tunnel like they did,” he said. “And I think Scott Frost can turn this program around to what it used to be.”
He informed the NU staff of his decision more than a week ago and spoke with Journal Star about it Tuesday evening. He really did have interest in playing for the Coyotes under head coach Bob Nielson, and wasn’t sure exactly what, if any, opportunity would present itself in Lincoln when former head coach Mike Riley and his staff were fired.
“For a little bit it felt like I was going to go my own way because the (timing) of the new coaches and it kept getting later and later and later,” he said. “But when Coach Frost had that walk-on night, we all kind of figured maybe I was going to be able to get the chance to walk on."
“It was just really exciting when that happened,” said Banderas, who was an all-city pick by the Journal Star this fall.
Banderas didn’t commit right away, opting to mull his decision and seek the advice of his dad and his older brother.
“We sat down when we got the walk-on offer from Coach Frost and kind of laid out the positives and negatives,” Josh said. “We really just came down to, would you rather be a Cornhusker or a Coyote? Where do you want to play football? Walk-on or scholarship, you’ll have the same opportunity to play. We didn’t push him one way or the other. I think if anything, we were saying, ‘Well, they really want you at South Dakota, they’re willing to pay for your school, so you might get a chance sooner there,’ but it just came down to his decision.”
Not only does a house full of red gear and a memory bank full of Memorial Stadium scenes weigh heavily into the decision to stay home, but the family also thinks the youngest Banderas boy is walking into a perfect situation with Frost, linebackers coach Barrett Ruud and the rest of the new staff.
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“I think if Coach Riley would have stayed, no bad reflection on him, I think it was probably more about (defensive coordinator Bob) Diaco, I think Anthony would have gone to South Dakota,” Tom Banderas said. “He loved it up there and they loved him. … I’ve called Scott coming back ‘the revolution,’ so I was kidding with Anthony and said, ‘Hey son, you’re going to be part of the inaugural prep class of the revolution.’
“You’re going to get an opportunity to do something your brother never did, and that’s get into a Big Ten Championship Game.”
Big brother, of course, is also familiar with Ruud, who was a graduate assistant during Josh Banderas’ sophomore year.
“He’s a freakin’ genius,” said Josh, who tore his calf and was waived by the Denver Broncos in July but is hoping to be medically cleared and able to begin looking for tryouts this week. “You play that long in the NFL and you pick up every little detail about the game. He just basically tells you how he played it … then shows you what might be better for you because you’re a different body type or you play differently. He’s smart and good at adapting different techniques to the situations that he’s seen and he’s been in.”
Likewise, Josh and Tom have plenty of experiences that Anthony will soon find himself going through.
The path will be different, though, for Anthony as a walk-on.
“He knows the program and he’s going to take the blue-collar route, where me and Josh had the white collar, the scholarship,” Tom said. “He knows he has to go down there and earn it. And he knows he’s in for a fistfight and he’s ready for it.”
Said Anthony, “I’ve got an opportunity to work hard for the next four, four-and-a-half years. I get the chance, like anyone else, to earn a scholarship and show them that I’m D-I football material.”
It’s hard for a proud older sibling to avoid looking at the Frost-led turnaround at Central Florida — from 0-12 in 2015 to 6-7 in 2016 to 13-0 Peach Bowl champions in 2017 — and not wonder what might be in store for Anthony.
“He’s kind of walking into the perfect storm,” Josh said. “I would have liked to have Coach Riley and (Mark) Banker and (Trent) Bray be his coaches, but the pieces just kind of fell apart and Banks left and they had not the best year. He can’t be walking into a better situation. If he’s going to probably redshirt and be there for five years; who knows what Scott can do in five years?”
Josh has considered it. And he’s thrown down the family gantlet.
“(Anthony)’s our last chance at getting a ring,” he said. “We’ve had two cracks at it already and didn’t get it done, so he’s our last chance. The family’s got to have one. We need to have something to put on the wall.”