Marion Local’s talented split end has fast made a name for himself – throw the ball anywhere near him and he going to catch it. And so far…there’s not much opposing teams can do about it.
Maria Stein – A word to the wise if there’s ever a poker game and Nick Tangeman is in it. Don’t sit down and play, because you already know…he’ll have the best hands in the game.
That’s a play on words, of course, because Nick Tangeman plays football, not poker.
But the Marion Local senior split end has already made a name for himself in the MAC and across Division VI football – if you throw the ball near him, anywhere near him, he’s going to catch it, and chances are when he does…he’s going to score.
At 6’4″ and 175 pounds Nick Tangeman has something that very few high school receivers have. His focus to catch the football seems infallible. And he has the kind of hands that lock on like vise grips. If he drops a pass…it’s headline news.
The other thing he has is the ability to make himself available to the football. Some of that is systemic, of course. Marion Local has had a high effective passing game for years. But when all else fails…just throw the ball above the average high school secondary player and with his size, and those hands, and with his ability to elevate to the ball, Tangeman is going to catch it.
In last year’s Division VI Final against Kirtland that’s exactly what he did. He caught six balls for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and two of those catches were in heavy traffic. Kirtland’s secondary had him well covered.
“He was big and long, and he knew how to use his body to go up and make those catches,” said Kirtland safety Mike Zeuli. “We just couldn’t stop him.”
“We don’t see many players his size that can go get the football like he does,” added Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde. “That’s a wonderful asset to have in your offense.”
Last Friday against Anna he again demonstrated his ability to go get the football, regardless of the coverage. Twice he went above defenders, pinned against the sideline once and in the corner of the end zone a second time, and came down cleanly with both catches. There was no defending him.
“Really, I just try to go get the football,” he said afterwards. “Nate (Bruns) just puts it up there where I have a chance and I try to go get it.”
Yes, but a lot of players try to go get it…and don’t. So what sets the Flyers’ senior apart?
“I always played a lot of backyard football with my neighbors,” he says. “So when I came in to seventh and eighth grade I was pretty well prepared to do that. I guess some of it has to do with genetics. My dad didn’t play many sports but I guess he had something to do with it.”
“He just has that ability to focus on the football and catch it,” said Tim Goodwin during this summer’s August camp. “Obviously you have to have good hands, but mostly he’s just got the knack of coming away with the football.”
There have been others like him at Marion, most recently Hunter Wilker, who graduated after the 2015 season. Wilker admitted once that he could remember dropping just one pass in his four years as a Flyer. And, he had the benefit of playing with Adam Bertke, who later signed to play Division I football at the University of Pittsburgh.
Like Wilker, Tangeman now has the privilege of working with one of the state’s best passers in Nate Bruns, who’s already signed to play college basketball next season at the University of Findlay.
“It’s pretty nice to have someone out there like him with his size,” said Bruns after Friday’s win over Anna. Tangeman caught six passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. “All you gotta’ do is give him a shot at it. Hunter (Wilker) was good, and he had great speed. But Nick catches everything.”
And he’s particularly adept at catching the ball in traffic. Distractions don’t seem to bother him, he just finds and catches the football.
“I guess I’m aware of the traffic, but I don’t really focus on the people around me,” he says. “Coach Koenig has a couple of drills where we have defenders that try to keep you from catching the ball, but mostly it comes natural to me. It helps if you can catch the ball with your hands, but sometimes it accidentally gets through to your shoulder pads. It’s also matters how the ball is thrown. He (Bruns) throws the ball pretty hard sometimes, but I’m used to it because you know which routes to expect the ball to come in fast, and Nate can also loft it, too. It all depends on the route and the play.”
Teams have caught on, and better teams down the road know from films and last year’s championship game that you have to account for #24 in the Marion passing game. The problem is…that there are others in that attack that can, and do, catch the football – Matt Rethman, Max Albers, Sam Huelsman, Nolan Habodasz, et.al. Commit too much attention to Tangeman and someone else will catch it.
“I’ve seen a couple of teams that moved the safety over my way,” he says. “Last year they didn’t know who I was, but now they’ve seen film and they respect me, I guess.”
But it’s hard to respect genetics – what Dad gave you – the 6’4″ part and those hands. You don’t see safeties that big, and with the complement around him you can’t afford to double-team receivers like Tangeman in high school football. Like Mike Zeuli said…he knows how to use that 6’4″ body, which is why it’s hard to stop Nick Tangeman.
And if and when the day comes…don’t even think about five card draw!