Brandon Vitabile didn’t play youth football because he was too big. Now, his size and smarts have made him an integral part of Northwestern’s success and a finalist for the 2014 William Campbell Trophy.
“It’s a great honor,” Vitabile said of being one of the 17 finalists. “It’s a testament to what we do at Northwestern, what coach (Pat) Fitzgerald does and what athletic director (Jim) Phillips does. It’s great for Northwestern as a whole.”
The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Vitabile has literally been in the middle of the action for the Wildcats for the last four seasons, starting all 47 games of his career at center for Northwestern, serving as a two-year co-captain in 2013 and 2014.
“I love what football taught me about myself,” Vitabile said. “There’s no other game where you get punched in the face and have to come back the next play. You have to be willing to prepare for success, and you have to put in the work and the time.”
Vitabile said he maintains that philosophy both on and off the field, where he recorded a career GPA of 3.56, earning his undergraduate degree in economics with a minor in business institutions and a certificate in integrated marketing and communications.
“I think the biggest thing I learned was time management,” he said. “You have to believe you belong and not get scared. You have to use your time wisely, get to the library and put in the extra work. It’s a major academic challenge here and it’s about preparation. Football and academics have a lot of carryover.”
Vitabile credited Fitzgerald for helping to shape him as a player. The Northwestern coach understands the challenges of football having been a two-time All-America linebacker with the Wildcats, including leading the team to the Rose Bowl in 1995 before taking over at his alma mater nine seasons ago.
“He’s had a great influence on my life,” Vitabile said. “My big change was from freshman to sophomore year, he helped me become the person I want to be. He’s just an awesome person, and he stands for everything that’s right in college football. A little support and confidence goes a long way and it means a lot coming from him. He’s a great mentor.”
Vitable, a native of Edison, N.J., is projected as a late-round NFL draft pick, but after his football career is over, he wants to move into Wall Street. Vitabile interned at Goldman Sachs last summer, giving him a taste of his potential future.
“My interest has been in finance, so something like money management or the (stock) market – I’m very intrigued by it,” he said.
For now, Vitabile’s goals are to finish on a high note by helping the Wildcats reach a bowl game, putting a cap on a college career that seemed unlikely when he couldn’t even suit up as a youngster.
“Football has given me a lot. I never thought I would play in the Midwest. It’s taken me across the country, given me the opportunity to come to Northwestern and meet great people. It’s opened up a lot of doors for me.”