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Football: Four players earn scholarships

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Notre Dame had the scholarships available, and Irish head coach Charlie Weis had three linemen and a long snapper in mind.

On Monday, Notre Dame’s athletic department announced that defensive linemen Casey Cullen, Travis Leitko and Dan Chervanick, and long snapper J.J. Jansen would receive football scholarships for the 2006 season.

“The four players were surprised with their scholarships at a private team meeting conducted at the conclusion of Monday’s practice,” the athletics press release said.

Cullen is a 6-foot-1 senior who forced two fumbles last season on special teams. He began his career as a reserve linebacker, but switched before the 2005 season and played in all 12 of Notre Dame’s games last season.

Cullen also earned a one-year scholarship last season for his “commitment, dedication, work ethic and performance during spring and fall camp,” according to a Notre Dame press release from Aug. 22, 2005 – nearly one year to the day before earning his second such scholarship.

The other three have taken different routes to obtaining their scholarships.

Leitko was a scholarship player from 2002 through 2004, but was not on the Irish roster in 2005. He returns to Notre Dame this year after leaving for the 2005-06 school year for academic reasons. The aerospace engineer struggled with a form of attention deficit disorder that forced him to miss the season.

Senior defensive tackle Derek Landri said he was happy to have Leitko as a possible backup during the game.

“He’s right back where he left off,” Landri said after the team’s practice Tuesday.

Defensive coordinator Rick Minter said Leitko and Cullen could bring an important vocal leadership role to the team, even if they do not start on a defensive line that features returning veterans Landri, Victor Abiamiri, Chris Frome and Trevor Laws.

“That kind of leadership is something we look for from all the seniors,” Minter said.

Unlike Leitko or Cullen, Chervanick is listed as an offensive lineman, but has seen most of his action on the defensive side of the ball.

The fifth-year senior played in four games during the 2005 season, made two tackles and caused one quarterback hurry. Chervanick made one special teams appearance, while earning the rest of his playing time at defensive tackle.

The only player out of the four who is not a predominantly defensive lineman is Jansen, who took over long snapping duties last year starting with Notre Dame’s 34-31 defeat to USC.

Now a junior, Jansen has been a reliable fixture on long snaps, successfully converting all 62 attempts he made during the regular season.

All four will return to the practice field Wednesday as Notre Dame continues its third and final week of fall camp with another late-afternoon session on Cartier Field.