September 3, 2004

Senior Kitlowski Unfazed by Switch to Strong Safety

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Every time senior linebacker Brad Kitlowski steps on the football field, he’s out to hit somebody — and he usually finds his mark. From both inside and outside positions, Kitlowski has knocked down, broken through, and sacked opposing offenses in nearly every game In his rookie season, Kitlowski placed among the top ten tacklers on the team, bringing down 35 ball carriers and receivers. He enters this year — his last on the turf at Schoellkopf — as the team’s returning leader in tackles, with 71 (34 solo), and as its defensive anchor.

But this season will be different — perhaps better — for the two-time All-Ivy honorable mention selection: this year, Kitlowski will play under a new coach and in a new position. “Everything’s going great right now,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we have time to do it before our first game against Bucknell.”

For Kitlowski — or “Kit,” as his teammates call him on the field — much of that work has been devoted to learning the ropes at strong safety, where he will prowl this year.

The decision to switch Kitlowski from outside linebacker to strong safety was made mutually by him and the coaching staff, and Kitlowski thinks the decision is best for the team.

“I talked with the coaches, and I just told them I’d play wherever as long as it would get us the most wins,” he said. “Winning is the most important thing. It’s all that matters.”

Along with Kitlowski, fellow former linebacker senior Joel Sussman will also move into the defensive backfield as a whip. The tandem, which has bookended the Red’s defensive line for three seasons, should make an imposing threat to runners and receivers alike.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, which says that learning a new position senior year would certainly sink a player, the move back may actually put Kitlowski in a better position to do more damage.

“It’s really not much different at all, and I pretty much have the same responsibilities as a linebacker,” he said. “The only differences might be that I’ll have more one-on-one coverage, but they still have me doing aggressive blitzes, coming up front.”

Those blitzes resulted in some big plays last year for the Red. In five tackles-for-loss, Kitlowski knocked opponents back eight yards and racked up a season-high13 tackles against Dartmouth, while notching another double-digit performance versus Brown, with ten. Numbers like those could indicate one of two things: too many players were breaking through Cornell’s front line, or Kitlowski just finds a way to find them before anyone else. Come Sept. 18, when the Red takes on the Bison, that tenacity is sure to show through again, just from a different perspective.

But Kitlowski knows that regardless of the scheme — nickel or dime, strong or weak, blitz or bump-and-run — football is about executing the basics: running, passing, blocking, tackling. He feels ready to do just that in his swan song season at Cornell, saying, “I’m in a position to make plays, and I’ve just got to make them.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor