In the stands at Comet Stadium, a Genoa football fan could be heard referring to Comet player Tyler Rozek as an "animal."
Another likened him to a "machine," while his neighbor called Rozek a "beast,” and another fan ringing a maroon Genoa cowbell chimed in with the metaphor "assassin."
Perhaps the best description for the 5-foot-9, 189 pound Comet senior special teams ace would be "heat-seeking missile" for the way he sprints down the field with no regard, locked onto his target in dangerous Eastwood return man Devin Snowden, and proceeded to blow up the entire Eagles' kick return attempt by practically knocking the 5-10, 146 pound Snowden out of his cleats to help spark a 41-7 Genoa win.
"I love to hit, and you could definitely say that I take a lot of pride in my hitting, because I think a guy can set the tone in a football game, and get himself, his team, and the fans really excited when he makes a big hit," shares the 18-year-old Rozek.
Rozek has become a solid fixture on second-year head coach Tim Spiess' special teams units for two years.
"Actually, I prefer hitting on special teams," he says, "because I get to run down the field at full speed, there's really no real play on, there's nothing to remember, it's just smashing into someone as hard as you can, and it's simple and really, really fun.
"Some guys have to kind of develop a feel for special teams play, a taste for it, but I feel like hitting just comes naturally to me. I think football is an aggressive sport, and that we kind of have to go as hard as we can out there, and knock our opponents down with good, solid hits, because if any one of us, or any player on any team, takes a play off, or goes at half-speed, there's always that better chance we could get hurt.
"But, I would definitely have to say that special teams are just as important to a football team as the offense and defense. Good, hard special teams play just gets everyone jacked, from your teammates, to your coaches, to the fans. I mean, once everybody sees a big hit on special teams, they get into a game a whole lot more, and everyone starts getting more excited and cheering louder."
Genoa is 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the Northern Buckeye Conference, heading into last Friday’s Northern Buckeye Conference contest against Lake (5-1, 2-1). Rozek leads all of Coach Spiess's special teamers with nine tackles. There have been other special teams plays to remember, including another highlight in the rout over Eastwood.
During Genoa's heavyweight bout with longtime coach Jerry Rutherford and his Eagles, Rozek dove headlong into the fray to recover an onside kick, which put his Comets in business on the Eagles' side of the gridiron. The onside kick was a gutsy call, with Genoa in the lead, and it caught the Eagles off guard.
Rozek’s favorite special teams hit came on August 24, 2012 against Ottawa Hills. He made his debut as a future special teams ace on a play where he took out four Green Bears before lighting up the ball carrier.
Fellow Comet special teams wrecking crews Jake Wojciechowski, Blake Traver, and Dakota Sheahan have their top Rozek moments, too. They each point out No. 6's slobber knocker on Snowden as their No. 1.
Says the 6-0, 182 pound junior Wojciechowski: "Rozek just came flying out of nowhere and just cracked him. It was probably the hardest hit of the year so far. My favorite is when he just goes nuts and builds up a lot of anger and yells like crazy."
Echoes the 5-10, 181 pound junior Traver: "He came out of nowhere and destroyed their return man. He's fast, explosive, dangerous, and what makes him special is his ‘I don't care’ mentality. If you get in his way, you're going to get hit hard."
Adds the 6-0, 187 pound senior Sheahan: "My favorite Tyler play from this year is when he hit Snowden of Eastwood. Tyler just stands out on the kickoff team. He is one of the fastest kids on the unit and he hits harder than anyone on it. Other teams really have to watch him because his play can pin them inside their own 15 with no problem."
Perhaps the most glowing endorsement of Rozek comes from Spiess: "Tyler Rozek is just a high-energy football player and his enthusiasm is contagious. The hit he had on the Devin Snowden kickoff return is a top 10 hit of my coaching career."
Genoa football statistician Lee Nissen, a lifelong Comet, calls Rozek "a maximum effort kind of guy" and "a great kid from a great family." Co-athletic director Mike Thomas, also a lifelong Comet, calls Rozek a "team player" and a "mature young man.”
Rozek has yet to record an all-conference award. So, he has established his own goals, for before and after football.
"I'd like to be a first team defensive tackle and for our team to win the NBC and go all the way,” Rozek said. “After graduation, I plan on going into the service and then becoming a fireman."
Outside of special teams hits, as an undersized defensive tackle, he's recorded 19 tackles, four tackles for a loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
"To be honest with you, it doesn't bother me at all that I don't get a lot of recognition for my special teams play like (return man) Casey (Gose) and (first team All-Ohio placekicker) Cody (Pickard) do," offers Rozek. "For me, special teams play is about going out there and doing my job and being in the right place at the right time. Our success on special teams is about our other hard-hitting special teams players, too,"
In turn, Tyler dishes out kudos to the aforementioned Sheahan, Traver, ‘Wojo,’ junior Nick Wolfe, and younger brother Kyle Rozek "because they're all really fast, and can really lay the wood, too."
"Special teams are about saving your anger up from the rest of the week and taking it out on the football field," he says.
Genoa senior Tyler Rozek lays a hit on a Waite quarterback. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.smugmug.com)
Genoa senior Tyler Rozek. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.smugmug.com.