In the game of football there are twenty-two players on the field during each play. Eleven are on the offense and eleven on the defense. There are different positions for each player. The most glorious position is of course the quarterback. He is the General, the commander who exudes courage and confidence, contrives strategies even miracles. Fans love to see the quarterback in action. He is like a movie star much like Allen Ladd in Shane.
The nose tackle is exactly the opposite. He is the man who lines up on the offensive center in the exact middle of every melee. The nose tackle rarely steps forward into the limelight. And unlike the tall lithe quarterback the nose, as they are called, is usually short and massive. In fact most nose tackles look a lot like Shrek. About the only time anyone notices the ubiquitous nose tackle is when he somehow sacks the quarterback, which does not happen very often.
The nose tackle exists in a world of his own. Look for the nose tackle during the next National Football League game you watch. If the defense is in a formation known as the 3-4 formation the nose is right there in the center of everything. Notice that as soon as the football is snapped he virtually disappears in a pile of arms and legs and is usually at the bottom of the pile. His name is almost never echoed over loudspeakers or by announcers during the game. He is an unheralded stalwart doing yeoman’s work without much fanfare.
Yet the nose tackle is an important position. He is the anchor of the defensive line. He keeps the guards or center from blocking the linebackers so they can make the tackles, the sacks, the glorious defensive plays that make people cheer at games or rise off their couches and pump their fists in the air. In fact some of the most important plays by the offense is planned around how to block the nose tackle. Believe it or not it is as if the whole ebb and flow of the game swirls around the play of the nose tackle.
Most youngsters with a yen for football do not grow up dreaming of being a nose tackle. In fact most do not even know of this position until later years. Some grow up to be naturals at the nose, others work hard and grow into it. Like an officer in combat who has to choose which man will go out on a dangerous mission so it must be for the coach who chooses which man will be the nose tackle. It is almost a sacrifice. It is taking one for the team. Many names of quarterbacks, receivers, linebackers even tackles can be recalled easily by football fans. Not too many nose tackles come to mind. Curly Culp and Joe Klecko were pretty famous nose tackles in their time. But others seem too vague to remember.
Some people think of the nose tackle as an ogre. Next time you watch a football game do something different. Cheer for the ogre.