NFL Combine

‘Superback’ Dan Vitale Building to NFL Draft


With the NFL Draft looming and his stock uncertain, Northwestern ‘Superback’ Dan Vitale understood the value of the Combine.

With everything riding on his performance, Vitale did not disappoint. He was the top performer among fullbacks in four of a possible seven athletic tests, posting impressive numbers throughout the weekend. In fact, Vitale wasn’t just great among fullbacks — he stacked up well against all participants.

He ran a faster 40-yard dash (4.60 seconds) than 16 defensive backs and outperformed Heisman winner Derrick Henry in five of the seven tests.

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that the fans don’t get to see,” Vitale told us recently. “Going to the hospitals, doing the weigh-ins and stuff like that. I was fully busy the entire time. There were long days. It’s a pretty strict business trip, and that’s what I expected.”

Vitale knew what to expect in Indianapolis, as he received some pre-event advice from his former Northwestern teammate and current Cleveland Brown, Ibrahim Campbell.

Vitale recalls a conversation he had with Campbell before he arrived at Indianapolis: “He said, once you get there, it’s an interview as soon as you step through the doors of that hotel. So I knew exactly what to expect.”

A successful Combine left Vitale with a choice on whether to re-do all the drills for the scouts at his Pro Day. Re-do them and he risks regressing and making his Combine seem like a fluke. Opt out and some may speculate about his ability to reproduce those results.

Vitale explains, “Although I had done better on everything before, I stood on my [Combine] numbers. I didn’t do any of the Combine testing [at my Pro Day].”

Vitale relishes the fact that he led numerous categories at the Combine and had little left to prove, at least in terms of his measurables.

“Really all I did [at my Pro Day] was run routes, which was the only thing I didn’t show a ton of at the Combine,” he said. “I wanted to show that I could do it from different spots, so it went pretty well.”

Although Vitale was referred to as the “Superback” during his time with the Wildcats, there really was no precise positional role that was assigned to him at Northwestern. He saw snaps as a traditional lead-blocking fullback, got carries as a bruising tailback, ran routes out of the backfield and covered kicks on special teams.

Vitale knows his amorphous identity may intimidate potential suitors in the draft who have specific shoes to fill, but he is confident his versatility is his best selling point.

“I sell myself as a guy that can do a little bit of everything, so more of an H-back,” Vitale said. “I make sure that each team knows that [playing fullback] is something that I’m 100 percent able, physically and mentally, to do. I can play fullback well, and I can do a lot of things that a lot of other fullbacks can’t do.”

That H-back talk is music to the ears of Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who is seeking an H-back to replace David Johnson, who remains unsigned as a free agent.

When Telesco is making a decision on Vitale at some point on the third day of the draft, the ultimate question he will ask himself is, “Will this player, in one way or another, help our football team win?”

Given Vitale’s supreme adaptability and willingness to embrace any role, the answer figures to be a resounding “yes.”

For our previous interview with Dan Vitale, where he talks about the prospect of opening up running lanes for Melvin Gordon, click here.

About Jesse Cohen

Jesse Cohen graduated from the University of California, San Diego, where he received his B.S. in Physics. This background helps Jesse to find insight through a statistically comprehensive and analytical view of the topics he covers. When he’s not covering sports, he plays professional ultimate for the San Diego Growlers.

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1 Comment

  1. noel golondrina

    March 24, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Can you please send your articles to Tom Telesco because you make a lot of sense. We want this guy in the 4th!

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