PG West: Blackhawk grad Feltrop does his hitting on the football field for Geneva's defense
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Geneva College football coach Geno DeMarco was talking about senior linebacker Zach Feltrop and saying if Feltrop was a basketball player, he would be classified as a gym rat with all the extra things he does in preparing for a game.
That's when Geneva sports information director Van Zanic chimed in.
"For a 7 o'clock Saturday night game, Zach was standing at the 50-yard line [at the college's Reeves Field] by himself at 1:15," Zanic said.
Think Feltrop has something of an obsessive attitude when it comes to football? But it doesn't come across in conversation with him.
He is outgoing with a happy-go-lucky personality and doesn't come across as a football madman. He doesn't think he will get into coaching after he graduates in December with a business degree, so how dedicated can he be to the sport?
Ah, but don't be fooled.
"He's like that until he puts his helmet on," DeMarco said. "Once he steps between the lines, he's all business."
A look at Geneva's defensive statistics shows Feltrop's business is stopping opposing running backs. Last season, he was in on 105 tackles -- 53 solo stops -- in 11 games. That's an average of 91/2 tackles a game, a stat Steelers Hall of Famer Jack Lambert would love.
In two games this year -- Geneva (0-2) plays at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Thiel -- Feltrop has 12 solo tackles and has been in on 10 others.
It helps that Feltrop's position in Geneva's 3-5 alignment puts him in the middle of all the action. He is the right man in the right spot for the Golden Tornadoes.
"I love it," he said. "My back and shoulders tell me how many tackles I'm involved in after a game, but I like being in the middle of things out there. I'd like it even if I didn't make any tackles."
Like most linebackers, Feltrop enjoys contact -- always has, ever since he played for the Blackhawk midget team. He played on the offensive line for Blackhawk High School, well, because ...
"In high school, you play offense because you have the skills and ability to do that and that helped the team," he said. "But you played defense because you wanted to."
In college, players usually go one way and Feltrop always knew defense was his thing. He started his college career at West Virginia Wesleyan, but things didn't work out and he came home.
DeMarco recruited Feltrop as a senior at Blackhawk. When he got a telephone call from Blackhawk assistant Frank Namath that Feltrop was home, the lines of communication were reopened.
"When you live [in Beaver Falls], you don't see Geneva as a place to play because you're too close," Feltrop said. "But coming back here to play ... it couldn't have worked out better."
Feltrop makes all the defensive calls for the Golden Tornadoes. He's such a quick study that he rarely makes a mistake on the field.
"He's the smartest football player I've ever seen," said Mike Pinchotti, Geneva's defensive coordinator. "He sees something once on tape and as soon as he sees the formation [in a game], he knows what's going to happen."
"Some people react. He anticipates. He knows where the ball is going," DeMarco said. "That just adds to his quickness."
Feltrop also enjoys playing the game. If he didn't, he would have taken himself off the special teams long ago. But he still runs onto the field with Geneva's punt block and field-goal block units.
"He's the guy who opens the hole for the guy to go through to make the block," DeMarco said. "Nobody knows he's the one who makes the play happen and he doesn't care that nobody knows, just so we win.
"He doesn't care if he isn't in on any tackles as long as we win."
There's one other thing about Feltrop. At 6 feet and 240 pounds, he is hardly a striking figure out of uniform.
"He's the best, worst looking player we've ever had," DeMarco said with a laugh. "And he'll make a great coach some day ... if that's what he wants to do."
First Published September 25, 2008 12:00 am