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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Special teamers smash

    UA special teams player Orlando Vargas (38) looks to make a block on a punt return during the Wildcats 48-14 win over Washington Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. Vargas and fellow special teams player Tito Foster - the self-proclaimed Smash Brothers - have impressed coaches with all of their hard work in a non-starring role on the team.
    UA special teams player Orlando Vargas (38) looks to make a block on a punt return during the Wildcats’ 48-14 win over Washington Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. Vargas and fellow special teams player Tito Foster – the self-proclaimed ‘Smash Brothers’ – have impressed coaches with all of their hard work in a non-starring role on the team.

    The average fan has probably never heard of Tito Foster or Orlando Vargas of the Arizona football team.

    It wouldn’t even be a surprise if an avid fan is unfamiliar with the two players.

    That’s because Foster and Vargas, the self-proclaimed “”Smash Brothers”” who hang their hats on making a big hit or block, are purely special teams players. The two don’t play too much during the games, they don’t have star power nor do they hold a glamorous job.

    “”Me and Tito call each other the Smash Brothers, right, and it is just me and him,”” said Vargas, who is 5 feet 11 inches and 180 pounds. “”We are right next to each other and pretty much we are leading the team in tackles on special teams. So he is like my right-hand guy and we basically run down as fast as we can to make a tackle.””

    Holding perhaps one of the more blue-collar jobs in football, aside from being a lineman, The 6-foot, 185-pound Foster is all about putting in hard work, regardless of whether or not he gets recognition for his duties.

    “”Everyone wants to be the star. Every athlete on this campus was a star at their (high) schools,”” Foster said. “”But I would rather be the guy who does the blocking that gets the star in. I would rather be the guy that’s in the trenches.

    “”I am a special teams demon,”” Foster added.

    Foster and Vargas line up in every special teams unit – kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts and punt returns – which could add up to a total of 10-15 plays a game on a good day.

    But the Smash Brothers revel in the opportunity.

    The chance to lay a game-changing hit or impact the field position for the offense is an important job – a responsibility the two take very seriously and, surprisingly, are happy with.

    While it may seem like nobody is ever content with their current position, Vargas and Foster have no such qualms. The two may not see the field as much as the starters, but they have found a niche in the team.

    A job, perhaps, that nobody – including starters – could do better.

    Despite playing on a limited basis, Vargas has six total tackles and Foster has five, far from the bottom of Arizona’s stat sheet.

    “”I am helping out my team by giving some of my starters a break so they can go out there and perform at their best on defense or offense. Hard work is really what it is,”” Vargas said. “”Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. That’s our motivation and we have it written down everywhere. Me and Tito be running hard and doing what we do best.””

    And they are starting to grab the attention of their teammates and coaching staff.

    Special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt has certainly been impressed with the duo’s production, given that he used to play special teams for Arizona.

    “”They are unblockable at times,”” Hammerschmidt said. “”It means so much to them. They are good athletes and they play so hard. They get a kick out of it.””

    Aside from the big tackle or the hit that makes the crowd cringe, the two have a significant impact on field position. In the Washington game specifically, the two continued to shine, and it turned directly into points.

    When wide receiver Mike Thomas returned his punt for a touchdown ðð- the senior’s first career touchdown on a punt return – he was directly propelled to that position by blocks from Vargas and Foster.

    Vargas had a key block for Thomas upon catching the ball, and Foster had a clean-up block that paved the way to the endzone for the explosive receiver.

    “”Tito and Vargas, man, they are kind of like the special teams gurus,”” Thomas said. “”They don’t play that much, but when it comes to special teams, they thrive on that. When they are out there, they are pretty much the leaders of all the special teams. They’re hustlers.””

    It takes a special player to be successful on special teams – one who puts the team first. The two are far from the stars of the team, but their impact in perhaps the most underrated facet of the game continues to be one factor that allows Arizona to excel.

    “”We aren’t really getting playing time, but we are still helping our team,”” Vargas said. “”Every game that we have won, we have played well on special teams.””

    Special teams gurus, indeed.

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