By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
I like a good nickname. Patriots fullback Danny Vitale has a pretty strong one.
We’ll be calling him Danny, by the way, because the Patriots fullback said that’s what he goes by in his introductory conference call with reporters. But I’m also hesitant to call Vitale a fullback, because he went by a much better moniker at Northwestern: “super back”.
“Yeah, it’s funny, actually. I had never heard of a super back before I got to college, either, but basically it was just like an H-back, a move tight end,” said Vitale. “Northwestern, back when I was there, didn’t use a true hand-in-the-dirt tight end, so I played a little bit in the slot – a lot of times in the slot – on the wing, fullback when they used it and played a lot of receiver, basically, as well. It was just a kind of versatile player who could do a little bit of everything, and it was good for me because it kept me on the field playing 60 plays a game, sometimes more there.
“That was just a great role for me with my athletic ability and also with my ability to be able to block, as well. It was just a way to get me at the point of attack and do a lot of cool things from there. So, that was a big reason I went to Northwestern. They just kind of fit that mold that I was looking for.”
Vitale’s positional versatility makes him a bit of a different player from the retired James Develin, who was mainly a lead blocker in 21 personnel with the occasional outside route or goal line handoff. At 6 feet and 239 pounds, Vitale is a sprightly one compared to Develin. But you can take the potential drop-off in run-blocking and drive up Vitale’s stat bar in the pass-catching sections.
Again, “super back”. Visions of touchdowns and Jonah Hill penis jokes.
Vitale may technically be competing with Jakob Johnson for a roster spot on the Patriots. But schematically, aesthetically, the former Packers and Browns super back might really be competing for snaps with rookie tight end Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech. Keene played a similar role in college as the guy who did all the things in a number of ways.
Keene is a roster lock and is also bigger than Vitale, so we’ll see if the latter can carve out a role for himself.
He should, because he’s a goddamn super back.
Vitale has yet to top seven catches in a season, but he’s a small reason why the Patriots offense may look drastically different in 2020. If he sticks, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are pretty much guaranteed to get the most of any NFL team out of him.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.