Favorite Athlete: Jordan Mailata
Favorite Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite Memory Competing in sports: After every single pancake block, I always give a hand to help them up, and I always give them a pat on the head telling them good job.
Most Embarrassing/Funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: During a PAT attempt, me and one of my teammates acted if we were the referees and made sure they made the right call by looking at each other and putting up the kick is good motion.
Music on playlist: RAP/Country
Future Plans: Own a Construction/HVAC business
Words to Live by: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” Wayne Gretzky
One Goal Before Turning 30: Have my Construction/ HVAC business up and running smoothly
One Thing That People Don’t Know About Me: I have the best Singing Shower Voice
By GORDON GLANTZ
Ever wonder what Jason Kelce must have been like in high school?
Spend a little time with Quakertown two-way senior lineman Vinny Pellegrini and you can get a sense.
“I love him, yeah,” said Pellegrini of Kelce. “He is definitely one of my favorites.”
Coach George Banas certainly sees the comparison.
“I don’t think he has ever had a bad day in his life,” said the coach. “It’s crazy. I’ve been in football a long time, and he is the total happy-go-lucky offensive lineman. He has that type of personality. Fun-loving, big smile and just happy to be around. He jokes around with his teammates.”
Banas was quick to add that Pellegrini’s pedigree is that of a first-team all-league choice and a dominant force at left tackle.
“He just handles himself really well on the field, with his footwork and presence and just knowing what to do,” he said.
As gregarious as he is on the practice field and on the sidelines, Pellegrini is looking for the next “pancake block” from whistle to whistle.
Then, in a totally disarming move, he’ll help his opponent up off the ground and joke about it.
Before doing it all over again.
“I always do that,” he said. “That’s my go-to move. I don’t celebrate. I’ll help them up, give them a pat on the head, tell them ‘good job’ and then keep balling out. I do it again and again and again.”
The reactions from opponents tend to run the gamut.
“This year, I got slapped in the face a couple of times,” he said. “Usually, they are cool about it. I’ve been described as a big teddy bear.”
Taking a Shot
While Kelce ranks among his favorite players, Pellegrini identifies more with Jordan Mailata, who also plays left tackle, the position where Pellegrini ended up after moving to different spots along the line.
Mailata was a rugby player from Australia before the Eagles took a chance on him in seventh round (233rd overall) in the 2018 draft.
At that point, he had never put on shoulder pads and a helmet.
Pellegrini, also a standout pitcher/corner infielder in baseball, had not played any form of organized football before his freshman year at Quakertown.
“I never even played any Little League football,” he said. “I only played in high school. I didn’t play in middle school or anything.”
It started off with baby steps, and it went from there.
“The coach told me where to go, and I went that way,” he said. “He said to just used my big body – my size – and just move people.”
The progression, from there, was a slow and steady climb into being an invaluable piece on both sides of the ball.
“Freshman year was a little rough,” he recalled. “The coach would tell me the play. If I had to step with my right foot and lead the way, that was what I did. If it was going the other way, I would just to step the other way and lead the way.
“In my sophomore year, our right tackle went down with an injury and I kind of took the right tackle spot. When the right tackle got healthy, the left guard went down and I took the left guard spot. It was a whole thing. Then, in my junior year, we had a great 13-1 season. I was the starting left guard all season. This year, I took the bigger step and went to left tackle to protect our quarterback.”
Pellegrini’s favorite quote is Wayne Gretzky’s “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and that approach was a major part of his decision to play football.
“It has always been like that for me,” he explained. “I had never played football in my life. All of my friends were telling me to come out for it and make the sacrifice. I did it, and it was the best decision I ever made.”
Pellegrini may not look like the typical long and lean pitcher on the mound, but he is an imposing figure with an array of pitches at his disposal.
“I throw a four-seam, two-seam, curve ball, a knuckle curve ball – a whole variety,” he said. “I’ve definitely had my fair share of playing baseball. I’ve played all of my life.”
Pellegrini will be a four-year member of Quakertown’s varsity, although there was no spring season in 2020 when he was a freshman due to COVID.
“He would have been on varsity out of the gate as a freshman, which is extremely rare in our program,” Quakertown coach Jon Pallone said. “He has a great personality - he is extremely charismatic and competitive.
“The first time I met Vinny was at our youth camp - we had the eighth graders come volunteer to help. The young campers loved him so much they were literally crawling all over him and having a blast.
“Over the years, he has pitched some big games for us – including district playoffs - and had some big hits as well. We look forward to him pitching more big games and having more big hits. He’s a great kid.”
Added Banas, who used to coach baseball himself: “He is a heck of a pitcher. He throws mid-to-upper 80s with a lot of control and throws a bunch of different pitches. To look out there and see that kind of a pitcher coming at you, as a hitter, I would think is pretty overwhelming.”
Juggling two sports that could easily require year-round attention is both fun and challenging.
“After football season is over, I usually go right into the winter workouts,” said Pellegrini, who plays on an AAU baseball team after the Quakertown season ends. “I get in there with the baseball team, start lifting with them and get back into the swing of things and going all baseball, but still while working on footwork and technique of football.”
A Whole New Ballgame
At 6-2 ½ and 260 pounds, Pellegrini has the right size for the Division III level and is almost positive he will be moving on to play at Ithaca College.
He has already visited the school -- set against Cayuga Lake and overlooking the city of Ithaca -- twice.
“It’s definitely in my top three, if not my top one,” he said. “It’s a beautiful campus. The coaching staff and the team are amazing. The atmosphere was awesome.”
While he has college-level baseball skills, there is no doubt about which sport he will focus on.
“Definitely football,” he affirmed. “It is just such an enjoyable sport. You get to have fun with people. I have created a bunch of friendships from this sport.
“And you get to hit people for fun without getting penalized for it.”
What has him most excited is the chance to work on just one sport.
“I’m prioritizing football over baseball,” he said. “It’ll help me to take a huge step. I mean, I think I have already taken a big step in football while focusing on two sports. If I can just focus on one sport, it’ll be a whole new ballgame. It will increase my skill level a lot more.”
As good as Pellegrini is, Banas is anxious to see his development at the next level.
“He definitely has a lot of skill, and I definitely think he has a pretty high ceiling as far as developing that skill,” said Banas. “I still think he has tremendous upside. He is going to mature and realize how much the weight room can help him. When he gets to a program that implements that and he buys in just a little bit more, the ceiling for him is going to be really high.”
Pellegrini plans to continue his upward academic progression and major in business administration and/or marketing with the goal of being an owner/operator of his own construction company.
“It was just like football,” said Pellegrini, the second of four siblings. “I started going to the tech school in my freshman year. I started going there for HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). Recently, this year, I actually switched classes to construction just to get a secondhand-type of knowledge that I could then expand on.”
Pellegrini added that he had an uncle in the construction business and may work with him a bit in the summer in addition to some co-op via high school.
“I’m looking to get more experience that way,” said Pellegrini, who is the first to admit he wasn’t always the most serious student but has come to realize how it important is for his immediate and long-range future.
“It’s been a struggle,” he said, “But, I’m definitely getting better at it as this year goes on.”
Added Banas: “He is a decent student who has improved his grades every year, which they also look at it. As you proceed through high school, they want to see that your grades go up every year.”
Pellegrini said that he has just gotten involved the school’s Best Buddies program and some other community service activities with his coaches and teammates.
“It puts a big smile on their faces and helps us all out in general,” he said.
Turkey Day Feast
This past fall, Quakertown’s football squad was in a rebuilding phase since almost all the starters from the previous year’s potentate had moved on.
After topping bitter rival Pennridge on Thanksgiving, the Panthers hit the 6-6 mark.
“It was something,” said Pellegrini. “Right from the beginning of the game, there was a whole stare-down going on between the two teams, us and Pennridge, and that kind of set the tone for the whole game. At one point, there was a screaming match with each other, and then it was just time go play football.
“It was one of the best games I ever experienced and got to be a part of. To finish off with a win in a season that no one predicted was one of the best feelings that ever happened.”
Both Banas and Pellegrini believe that the senior lineman playing on both sides of the ball in the game was a major key to the 22-6 win.
“I was telling the guys, before the game - if we win up front, we win the game,” said Pellegrini. “That’s exactly what happened.”
The pep talk to his other linemen was far from a one-time event.
“I focused on leading my hogs,” he said. “I tried to lead them in every practice and push them to be the best that they could be. I make sure that everybody is giving 100 percent. If they are not giving 100 percent, then ‘good luck.’ I’m a loud person, so I try to use my voice as much as I can.”
As thrilling as the win over Pennridge was, it also meant the end of the road.
Pellegrini wanted to extend his gratitude to the teammates who mentored him, those he got to mentor and the others who were growing alongside him.
“I want to thank every football player that came out to help me and to push me to be 10 times better,” he said, adding a major debt of gratitude to parents (Marmette and Mark) “without them, and the support that they gave me, none of this would have been possible.”
The list extends to the coaches.
“I have so many bonds with them, and they have helped me with everything,” he said. “And I’m not just talking about football, but in life.”