Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Football in College on the Smaller Side

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Football in College on the Smaller Side

Article excerpt

It's known as sprint football, when it's known at all.

So what does a sprint football player call, um, his bigger helmet- wearing brothers?

"We call them 'the heavies,' " Cornell junior Brendan Miller said and laughed.

"We call it 'fat boy football,' and we call ourselves the football team," Penn senior Anthony DiBella said, joking.

Both Miller, from Glen Rock, and DiBella, from River Edge, participate in one of the smallest, but oldest collegiate sports. Sprint football, or "lightweight" football actually dates back to the 1930s when the Ivy League schools began to worry that their football players were getting too big. They created a league, set a weight limit -- 150 pounds -- and began to play.

Since then the sport has had as many as 16 schools participating, but has never ranged very far outside of the Northeast. Now there are eight teams playing in the Collegiate Sprint Football League, and the weight limit -- reflecting the times -- is 172 pounds.

The rules are exactly the same as the college football seen on television on Saturdays, but if anything, sprint football is faster.

"It is pretty competitive," said Miller, who was second team All- CSFL last year as quarterback. "With the size limit, a defensive tackle can be as fast as a cornerback. I remember my first snap as a quarterback in practice, I had to break the pocket and I had a defensive tackle running with me."

There are a handful of North Jersey athletes playing sprint football. Miller started at quarterback for Cornell as a sophomore. DiBella is a two-year captain and starting linebacker at Penn.

At 5 feet 6 -- on a good day -- and 160 pounds, DiBella didn't have Division I offers coming his way, even though River Dell coach DJ Nimphius describes him as the second best defensive football player he's ever had.

"He is just a football player," said Nimphius. "He is so lightning quick, and I ask him how do people block you when you play the nose [now] with an over or under technique and he just says, 'They don't.' "

Nimphius told DiBella about sprint football after his junior season for the Hawks. He called Penn sprint football coach Bill Wagner and sent him some film. …

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