WEST TERRE HAUTE —
West Vigo cornerback Andy Velazquez is one of the most anonymous of the really good high school football players in the Wabash Valley, and it’s his own fault.
The Viking senior blames himself for a lack of flashy inteception stats — “My hands have gotten worse every year,” he joked — but the real reason he doesn’t get more attention is more complimentary to his talents.
Most teams don’t throw to his side.
“The Linton game [earlier this season] was a highlight for him,” coach Jeff Cobb of West Vigo said this week. “They threw to his man three or four times, he shut down all of them, and then they quit throwing to him too.”
Those three or four passes defended made it a busy night for Velazquez. Last week at South Vermillion, the Wildcats completed one pass in front of him but paid for it; he stripped the ball from the receiver for a fumble recovered by teammate Dakota Short, saving a touchdown. If it wasn’t the biggest play in a West Vigo victory, it was certainly one of the biggest, and the Vikings remain unbeaten in Western Indiana Conference play as a result.
And the Wildcats didn’t complete another pass.
“I actually switched sides this year [hoping to get more action],” said Velazquez, who lines up at left corner this fall, “and now [opponents] are throwing to the other side … it does seem like the other quarterbacks always have something to say to me when we shake hands after the game.”
Velazquez hopes to continue his magic tonight when the Vikings play WIC rival Edgewood in the Vikings’ homecoming game.
“If I can shut down my side [of the field], it cuts off at least half the field [for the other team’s offense],” he said.
And winning the conference is something Velazquez thinks is pretty important.
“I think we have a very good chance to win the WIC,” he said, “and that would be something very exciting to me as a senior.
“We’re playing pretty good, but we could do a lot better. We haven’t reached our full potential yet, but we’re about there; hard work during the week and some focus should get us there.”
The 5-foot-8, 162-pound senior lists the offensive line and defensive line as the strengths of the Vikings. “They’re the difference-makers,” he said. “Our running backs are pretty solid, and we have a good corps of defensive backs.”
Velazquez has been part of that corps for three seasons now and will be a four-year letterwinner because of an even more anonymous job — he’s been the long snapper for punts and kicks since his freshman year. He hasn’t played much offense though.
“He kind of settled in [when he became a defensive starter two years ago], and we didn’t want to put too much [responsibility] on a sophomore,” Cobb said, “and other guys blossomed in other areas.”
“I actually wanted to play quarterback this year,” Velazquez said, “but I missed too much time in the summer to learn the position … I had Boys State, and a lot of academic camps, like pre-engineering at Rose-Hulman. And I strongly respect the running backs and quarterbacks we have now; I couldn’t do any better.”
“He’s a quiet leader,” Cobb said. “He does his job, and he expects everybody else to do theirs … a great kid. All team. They don’t come any better.”
Ranked ninth among 156 students in West Vigo’s Class of 2013, Velazquez isn’t sure college football is in his future, even though true shutdown corners are in demand everywhere.
“My biggest worry is that football [in college] would set back my academics,” said Velazquez, a potential bio-medical engineer.
“His [grade-point average] is 3.7, and he takes the hardest classes, even in his senior year,” Cobb noted. “The word that best describes Andy is meticulous. His attention to detail in academic and athletic endeavors make him perform at a high level.”
“I’m not worried [about playing college football] right now,” the senior concluded. “If I finish my senior year knowing I did everything I can to help win every game, I’m happy.”