Confident Vitabile Making Strides

Redshirt freshman center Brandon Vitabile was asked to take on a major role with Northwestern's veteran-laden offensive line. The close bond of the linemen—consisting of weekly dinner outings, group TV nights, and summer pool parties, and, of course, football—has helped Vitabile become one of the guys.

When Brandon Vitabile first visited Northwestern on a recruiting visit, he immediately felt like one of the guys.

The highly-touted center was led around Evanston by Al Netter and Brian Mulroe, but quickly found himself with the Wildcats' tight-knit group of offensive linemen. The evening was spent watching TV and eating dinner with the linemen.

Vitabile felt very comfortable with the camaraderie, and realized he wanted to be a part of that.

"Just hanging out with the linemen, you see the kind of people that are here and the kind of relationship they have," said Brandon Vitabile. "It's something I wanted to be involved with."

The Wildcat linemen still maintain a close unity off the field. The group holds weekly dinners together, watches "The League", and even hosted a summer pool party.

"Those guys watching film together, going out to dinner on Thursday nights together, all those little things make the difference," said NU offensive line coach Adam Cushing.

In just his second season at Northwestern, Vitabile was given a challenge. Surrounded by 137 starts, the redshirt freshman was asked to anchor NU's veteran-laden offensive line, taking over as the starting center.

Vitabile's veteran teammates accepted him as their new center—just as they did during his recruiting visit.

"Those guys accepting him into the group and really integrating him as one group of five that plays together has really been the biggest part," Cushing said.

For Vitabile, there was no issue of earning the trust of his teammates and coaches. Instead, he had to believe in himself.

Vitabile gained self-confidence by battling with some of the Big Ten's best defensive tackles, such as Michigan's Mike Martin and Nebraska's Baker Steinkuhler. The redshirt freshman now carries the poise of a senior.

"At the beginning of the season, the coaches trusted me, so I had to trust myself," Vitabile said. "Now, I've seen it, I've been able to hold my own, and I'm more comfortable in these situations."

Northwestern coaches held no reservations to the idea of making Vitabile the starting center, moving Ben Burkett to guard. The switch has paid dividends thus far, and the second-year center has a bright future.

"I think he's beyond what we hoped for, he's really a pretty good football player," said Cushing. "There are always things you can get better at. Al Netter, who's a darn good player, still needs to get better at things here and there. We're really excited about where Brandon is at."

The confident Vitabile has high aspirations to finish his first season as a starter with strong fashion.

"Just win out," he said. "My goal is to execute, win, play as well as I can, as see where it takes us."

Purple Wildcats Top Stories