More than a kick

July 27, 2023 Washington State Magazine Season 2 Episode 23
More than a kick
Show Notes Transcript

Dean Janikowski is the kicker for Washington State University’s football team, a 2022 graduate and currently an MBA student at WSU. He also has a great time on Instagram and other social media with photos and videos playing football for the Cougs, riding dirt bikes, and kicking spicy Chicken McNuggets.

In this episode, Dean talks with Washington State Magazine writer Becky Kramer about raising money for the Heather Janikowski Foundation, a charity named for his mom, who died of cancer.

Dean also talks about how he started his sports career in soccer, NIL (name, image, and likeness), and his side gig as a social media influencer.

You can follow Dean Janikowski on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok.

Read more

The Fall 2023 issue of the magazine digs deeper into the rapidly changing landscape of NIL in college sports. Check it out next week at

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Viewscapes – The podcast of Washington State Magazine

Episode 23: More than a kick

00:00 – Dean Janikowski (DJ)

So my mom passed away from cancer. So we ultimately started this foundation in her name. And so I started more than a kick, which kind of gave me an idea. Right before the season, I was like, I gotta do something. I kick all these field goals. I'm like, I gotta do something more, it's got to be more than a kick.


00:16 – Larry Clark (LC)

That's Dean Janikowski, the kicker for Washington State University's football team and an MBA student at WSU. 

Welcome to Viewscapes. Stories from Washington State Magazine, connecting you to Washington State University, the state and the world. I'm Larry Clark, editor of the magazine. 

In this episode, Dean tells Washington State Magazine writer Becky Kramer about raising money for the Heather Janikowski Foundation, a charity named for his mom who died of breast cancer. Dean also talks about how he started his sports career in soccer, and his side gig as a social media influencer, including that spicy Chicken McNuggets video.


00:55 – DJ 

Yeah, my name is Dean Janikowski. I'm the kicker here at Washington State. I'm a redshirt junior.


01:01 – Becky Kramer (BK)

Thank you for being here.


01:02 – DJ

Yeah. Thanks for having me.


01:03 – BK 

Well, let's start by talking about your football career. How long have you played football in? When did you start to realize that kicking was your specialty?


01:13 – DJ

Yeah, well, I actually never thought I was going to be a kicker or even play football. I thought it was always going to be soccer. I played soccer for about 10 years. And it really just took until I got cut my sophomore year in high school. I got cut for the first time ever. And I've been doing tryouts and things like that. And that was the first time I ever got cut from a team. And by then I was kind of burned out. And I was like, well, I'll stick to kicking. Let's try this because freshman year everyone was doing football. So I was like, well, I'll do that. I played tight end, linebacker, and then I kind of kept sticking to that. And once I got cut from soccer, I was like, well, let's focus on this kicking thing. So I grinded for two years, talked to a lot different schools, and ultimately found my way all the way up here in Pullman, Washington playing for the Cougs.


01:58 – BK 

You mentioned that you aren't related to Sebastian Janikowski, a former NFL player. But how often do you get asked that question?


02:08 – DJ

I get asked every single day. I get it on Twitter DMs, I get on Instagram DMs all the time. I remember one time we were playing a game against Saints in high school and this guy came up to me “Oh my gosh. Like you're Sebastian Janikowski’s son. I love your dad. Whoa, whoa, let's take a picture.” And I was like, “What?” and took the picture, but it was yeah, it's funny. I get that all the time. I know. It's in my bio now, it says “not related to Sebastian Janikowski.” And a lot of people doubt it too. Especially after a good game. They're like, “What? That was Janikowski who kicked? Like there's no way you're not related to him.”


02:42 – BK 

So you grew up in Fallbrook. And that's outside of San Diego. What made you choose to attend Washington State University?


02:51 – DJ

Yeah, well Fallbrook is a real small town. So when I came up here on a visit, seeing the small town really sparked my interest. I grew up raising animals and kind of just in the country a little bit. So just seeing that really got me interested. And just that, like, you have to find your own fun out here in Pullman. You got to go out, you got to go hunting, you got to go fishing, you got to go do these different things. That's fun. You got to really just put effort into it and just try. And I've never been a huge fan of the city. So here just really felt like home. And especially seeing the culture and seeing how close everyone is, that's just what I love the most.


03:26 – BK 

You mentioned you'd recently been fishing on the Snake River.


03:31 – DJ

Yeah, yeah, I went out fishing last week. I've been going out a lot recently. Smallmouth bass are spawning right now. So me and my buddy Nick Haberer. We caught over 175 small mouth bass. It's been so much fun. It's really nice. The weather has been great out here. 



And you also hunt. 



Yeah, I hunt and I go pheasant hunting all the time. And it's a blast. I love it. It's a fun game.


03:56 – BK 

You attribute your athletic ability to your mom, Heather. Tell me about her.


04:01 – DJ

Yes, she was a professional cyclist at one point. She was a huge role model for my life. She was always just working super hard. She'd wake up at 4am, go for a run, get back home at five. She'd help us get ready for school. She was just so helpful. I really attribute her athletic ability to me and just how athletic I am from her because of just how active she was. And just everything. She was a great motivator.


04:29 – BK 

So your family created the Heather Janikowski Foundation to honor her memory. And you told me it's a nonprofit and it raises money for people with cancer. And you started something called more than a kick. Yeah, tell me about that.


04:47 – DJ

Yeah, so my mom passed away from cancer. So we ultimately started this foundation in her name. She was a huge role model and super helpful to the community. So we wanted to be able to give back and do it in her name. And so started more than a kick, which kind of gave me an idea. Right before the season, I was like, I gotta do something. Like I kick all these field goals. I'm like, I gotta do something more. It's got to be more than a kick. And I'm like, That's a great name. So I found out about PledgeIt, where people can pledge money for points, or whatever, however I score, so I did it by a point system, and people could donate per point. So you could say you pledged, I don't know, $5 per point. So every time I kicked a PAT to be five bucks, and it ended up growing to about $280 per point, so every time I walked out, it was 280 points per PAT. And that went to someone with cancer. And so every time I stepped out on the field, it was it truly was more than a kick and it kind of motivated me to do so well in my field goals, and it just felt so good to be able to give back because we ultimately gave back to someone in the Pullman community


05:50 – BK 

More than a kick received lots of publicity after last year's Apple Cup. And tell me how that came to be. 


05:59 – DJ

Yeah, so Apple Cup, of course it's Apple Cup so it's a huge rivalry game. It's huge. It's everything, especially during that day. So we ended up going out, first drive for WSU, me and Nick went out. We had a field goal we lined up as a 50-yarder, we're going against the wind. And so I ended up kicking this field goal went bounced off the crossbar and bounced in and I lost it like I was going crazy. Like it was just so fun. Like I'm a very energetic person. 


[crowd noise and football announcer says the kick is good]


06:42 – DJ

I guess the next day, I went on Twitter and someone tweeted at me and said Janikowski celebrating like he just won the Super Bowl. And I saw that and I'm like, well, like let's do something out of this. Like, let's promote it and respond in a positive way. So I responded to this guy said, Hey, I know you don't know. But that field goal was worth 600 some dollars, and it got a lot of traction. It got about 400,000 people responded to it and just saw it in general. And it was cool because we were able to raise money and kind of people saw that I was doing these things. And I was raising money for cancer. So it got everyone excited. So both sides. It was a UW account that commented that and they kind of apologized from that. And they also brought in more people and U-Dub and WSU kind of came together and we raised around $5,000 just from that tweet. So it was cool to see like social media in action and just how you can really turn a bad thing into a good thing.


07:43 – BK 

You also had an event in April, I suppose, in Pullman, and that was called kicking cancer.


07:51 – DJ

Yeah, kicking cancer. So I'm good friends with the owner at Zeppoz. His name's Wayne. He allowed me to use the event and also helped me bring the Pullman community together to have a bowling event where we had a live auction, a silent auction, we were selling T shirts, we did a bunch of stuff. We had over 300 people I think, and we ended up raising around $33,000. It was a huge event and super fun. It was just cool to be able to bring the whole Pullman community together and raise money for someone with cancer, as well as give 15% of that money to the Seattle Children's Hospital, which I believe is the leading stem cell cancer research. And yeah, so it was really cool, huge event.


08:33 – BK 

Let's switch gears a bit and talk about your work as a social media influencer. So college athletes are now able to earn money from their name, image and likeness, which is often called NIL. What got you interested in doing NIL work with companies?


08:53 – DJ

Yeah, I just always loved social media. I love making videos, I love making videos and things I do, going on my crazy adventures, building crazy things. Like I've built a railroad car before. I documented all that. I love just doing stuff like that. So to be able to use social media and make money especially as a college athlete, because before you couldn't to be able to do, that has been so fun to be able to work with brands like Honda, McDonald's, G-Fuel, different companies like that, has just been so much fun. And it's cool to see the business side of things because I really want to own my own business at some point. To be able to build this network and stuff like that and be able to learn and grow and just make money like that has been so has been so much fun.


09:34 – BK 

Tell me about the Chicken McNuggets video.


09:37 – DJ

Yeah, yeah. So one of my NIL deals was with McDonald's and it was to promote the Spicy Chicken McNuggets. And they were a great company to work with; they made it super easy for me. They just told me that they wanted a few things like photos and stuff like that. And I kind of took that to a whole different level, kind of blew their mind. And I ended up stacking three boxes of spicy Chicken McNuggets. And I hot glued them together and put it on my kicking tee and I kicked those in slow motion, and they all blew up in front of the camera. And it was a super cool video. And so I submitted that to them so they could review it and they ended up posting that. But that was a blast to do it. It was fun. It's just cool to be able to work with companies like that and kind of have like, have no limits, and they just kind of let you do your thing. So that was a really fun deal to do.


10:26 - BK

And that was on your Instagram. So what has been your experience with Cougar football? What has that been like?


10:33 – DJ

It's been great. The culture, you can just tell the culture instantly. It's such a tight knit group. And it's so much fun with all the boys, everyone from all around the world. And it's just, we're just so close, I believe here at WSU. We're closer than anyone else. Like there's not much to do in Pullman so you got to go out and have fun. So we have people like Lincoln Victor, who's one of our team captains, he had all the boys over for dinner, and we hung out and it's just so fun. Everyone's so close to each other. And I think it really shows out on the field. And it's just, it's just a blast here in Pullman, I love it here.


11:08 – BK 

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming season?


11:11 – DJ

Really looking forward to just strengthening my mental focus. Getting really good at that and being able to control my mind, and being able to go out there and be consistent, be the best kicker again. I know in 2021 I was the best kicker in Pac-12. I want that and I want it even more. And I want our team to win. And I want us to go to Pac-12 Championship just like our girls basketball team did. And yeah, I'm really excited. We had strength staff change. A few different coaches changed. And yeah, we've been just crushing it in everything. We just keep stacking these days, and we're going to be really good football team this year.


11:45 – BK 

Yeah. Tell me where you are in school. 


11:48 – DJ

Yeah, so I graduated with digital technology and culture as my undergraduate in three years, and now I'm in MBA. It's an online program, Master's Business Administration. And it's great. It's so nice, especially with football to be on my own pace, kind of do my own thing. And just being able to do that has been so fun. And it's like such a great program. There's just a lot of people in it that put a lot of time into it. And it's been fun. I'm doing it with Kyle Thorne, who's another football player. So to be able to kind of do that together and get it paid and just be able to finish my football career here in the next two years, as well as finished my master's, is huge.




12:26 – LC 

Thanks for listening. You can find links to Dean Janikowski’s social media in the show notes. 

The Fall 2023 issue of Washington State Magazine also digs deeper into the rapidly changing landscape of NIL and college sports. 

How do you like the magazine podcast? What WSU stories do you want to hear? Let us know and 

A big thanks to WSU Emeritus Professor Greg Yasinitsky for the music.