Every play in a football game starts with the same action — the snap.
It appears as though it should be a routine, consistent occurrence without flaw. But, many times, a bad snap happens whether it’s under center or in the shotgun.
The center could pull out early for a block, hitting the quarterback in the fingers instead of the palm. Or the shotgun snap could go over the head of the quarterback. The shotgun snap could also hit the quarterback right in the hands, or go directionally left or right.
The Union High football team has the snap in good hands with senior center Nick Vitale. Vitale, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior, is a four-year letterwinner for the Scotties and a three-year starter.
“You take for granted the ball getting snapped to the quarterback every play,” Union coach Stacy Robinson said. “But, you shouldn’t. Nick does a great job of calling out the protection. He was always in the shadow of his older brother, Jake.”
Vitale snaps the ball to senior quarterback Tyler Staub. Staub has been the Scotties starting quarterback the past two seasons.
“Nick is very consistent with the snaps,” Staub said. “I really don’t know when we’ve had the last fumbled snap because of him. He’s very consistent and he gets the job done.”
Vitale, a son of Christina and Donnie Vitale, has a good mental outlook on his job on the offensive line.
“I feel like playing center you can’t think about it,” he said. “You just have to realize that you have to get the ball back there to the quarterback and you have to hit the first person you see.
Union’s offense is more of a pro-style formation, with the team utilizing different formations throughout the game.
“I feel like we go more heavy shotgun,” Vitale said. “I just feel like (the snaps) just clicks and you don’t think about it.”
Vitale and Staub work together so that the plays have a chance to get started.
“Sometimes before practice we will get together and work on it a little bit, get some snaps in,” Vitale said.
Prior to the play even starting, Vitale has another important job as the center. As the center, Vitale is responsible for calling out the checks and the blocking assignments for the play. Getting it wrong could mean the play getting stuffed for no gain or a loss of yardage.
“We go through a lot at the line, but we get it done,” Vitale said. “After the first two games we played, you never really hear the other team’s line talk. Mohawk and Ellwood barely said a word. and I feel we’re pretty vocal up front and that helps us out.”
Aaron Gunn departed Union and is playing at the University of Louisville. Gunn’s presence and talent was soaked up by the rest of the Union linemen.
“Nick has good footwork; he’s a good technician,” Robinson said. “He’s been playing on the line for four years.
“Pass protecting is a strength of his. You play against some big guys up front. We like to put Nick on the move, too. it is very important to have that leadership up front. You have to know when to come off your man and come on to another. You have to work together.”
Robinson said if needed, he could move Vitale to guard or tackle.
“Linemen don’t get the spotlight shown on them. But a lineman is just as important as someone like Tyler Staub or Jackson Clark,” Robinson said. “Without the blocking, nothing will get done. It’s the way of the world. They do the dirty work.”
Defensively, Vitale lines up at middle linebacker. He is in his third year as a starter on that side of the ball.
“He’s really having a great year on defense at middle linebacker,” Robinson said. “He is striking people this year. He’s confident and he has a great grasp of the defense.”
Vitale noted there was a turning point to his intensity this year on defense.
“You just have to hit someone,” Vitale said. “Every day my brother (Jake) would get on me and tell me I have to hit somebody, he would tell me I’m not hitting hard enough.
“This year, I feel like I got faster and stronger. Now I’m out there hitting.”
Nick Vitale also plays baseball. He’s unsure of his college plans, but they will include one of those sports at the next level.