Dan Vitale’s new role with Buccaneers evokes throwback term

Dan Vitale’s new role with Buccaneers evokes throwback term
(Daily file photo by Jacob Swan)

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Dan Vitale in April’s NFL Draft, it guaranteed a shot at a professional career for the former Northwestern superback. But his role as a professional was still very much in the air. Vitale was best known for his pass-catching work throughout his career and was the Wildcats’ leading receiver last season, but he spent the pre-draft process highlighting his willingness to block out of the backfield as a fullback.

With a player so versatile, it’s impossible to know how the Buccaneers will use Vitale until the pads are on. But an article on the Buccaneers’ team website gave some insight into the possibilities, including dropping a term that will make fans of retro football proud.

You won’t hear the word “wingback” on many NFL broadcasts these days. Those familiar with football history are most likely to use it in order to evoke memories of players like Johnny Rodgers, the Heisman Trophy winner at Nebraska in 1972.

Though the term wingback originated out of arcane offensive formations like the single-wing, today it is used to describe a hybrid role like the one Vitale is projected to play for the Buccaneers.

The story goes on to explain that the modern “wingback” role will involve much greater responsibilities in the passing game than it would have back in the day, and Vitale is currently listed as a tight end on the Buccaneers roster. After serving as the archetype of one unique position at NU, it would only be fitting for Vitale to bring back another one in the pros.

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