Legend says that in a small town in Missouri, back in the 1800’s, at a school named Chaminade, Phil Rone invented a special teams technique called the flying wedge. The flying wedge involved players forming a human wall of locking arms in front of the kickoff returner so that he could not be tackled by the opposing special teams unit. Phil Rone led Chaminade to three consecutive Missouri state championships on the back of his flying wedge before his rivals found a way to stop his creation. During a game against hometown rival Saint Louis University High School (SLUH), Coach Rone set up the wedge in the opening kickoff just like he would during any other game. When the returner caught the ball and positioned himself behind the human shield in front of him, SLUH super-athlete John Kramer ran headfirst through the wedge and flattened the returner. Kramer earned the nickname and invented the technique called the wedge buster. Rone was baffled. He had not developed any offensive plays in three seasons because the wedge had allowed his quarterback to stay on the bench.
Wedge and wedge busters became as common of a position as a running back on the gridiron. But in 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt decided that changes were needed to be made to college sports and to the wedge. According to college football archives, 18 players were killed in 1905 from football-related injuries, with at least 149 others being seriously injured. President Roosevelt believed that the number of deaths were so out of control that he pushed the formation of the NCAA to govern college sports and rid it of some of the corruption and injuries. These new rules banned the locking of arms to form the wedge along with some other measures. Current Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach John Harbaugh stated recently, “They outlawed it, but the essence of the flying wedge is still here, with the difference in equipment being an obvious difference."
Nowadays, the wedge is still present in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants, who use the traditional four-man wedge compared to the two or three man variation used by the majority of the league. While the wedge is a very important and spectacular aspect of special teams in the NFL, more exciting is the wedge buster. Wedge busters are the players that play football because they love to hit and be hit with reckless abandon. They are the man’s man of the NFL. This could be one of the most overlooked positions in the NFL and one of the most dangerous jobs in all of sports.
In honor of these great men, I am making it my personal mission to make sure that wedge busters are honored. While most fantasy leagues concentrate on running, passing, kicking, and defense, my fantasy league will now include a category called wedge-busting. Fantasy owners will be rewarded two points each time a wedge buster breaks through the wedge. In the spirit of how these guys lead their lives, there is some risk involved with this point system. If the wedge buster does not break through a wedge that is present (if the returning team does not form a wedge, a loss or gain of points is not applicable), then the player loses two points. The strategy in drafting these players takes into account many things. For example, a player who destroys wedges, but mostly plays against teams that do not run the wedge, is not very valuable. Fantasy owners must take into account schedules, determination, heart, and a fetish for pain when choosing their token wedge buster. The following is a list of the top five wedge busters around the NFL. If you go through six rounds of your fantasy draft, and you do not have one of them on your team, then you obviously are not going to be a competitor this year.
1. Keith Adams (Philadelphia Eagles)
Not only is Keith Adams a wedge’s worst nightmare, but the Eagles are in the same division as the Giants, which gives Adams a chance to bust through a four man wedge twice a year. Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach John Harbaugh said this about Adams, "He just explodes into wedges, and he always says if his contacts don't pop out, he didn't do his job." Nicely said Keith. Grab this guy first, because he won’t be around in later rounds.
2. Larry Izzo (New England Patriots)
This special teams Pro-Bowler doesn’t think twice about throwing his body through a 750 pound wedge. Izzo has led the Patriots with 72 special teams tackles over the past three seasons (2001-03). While he does have a few injuries in his past, he is no doubt one of the great wedge busters and should be chosen accordingly.
3. Tony Jackson (Seattle Seahawks)
In his rookie season out of Iowa, this guy has something to prove and busting wedges may be his way to prove it. He will be trying to earn a starting spot in the fullback position and busting wedges may be the ticket he needs. While this could be a risky pick as your starting wedge buster, he could also be the Antonio Gates of 2005. Take a risk because Jackson does every time he busts that wedge.
4. Mike Furrey (St. Louis Rams)
Last season, Furrey contributed to the Rams special teams during game time while moonlighting as the number five receiver on the depth chart, which was the same season that he was tied for second on the team in special teams tackles with 13. That was also when he weighed 180 pounds. This season, Martz has asked him to move to free safety so he has packed on more than 20 pounds, which should make any wedge shudder. Wedge busting follows the old time saying, “The bigger, the better.” Don’t let this guy slip past you on draft day.
5. Brett Keisel (Pittsburgh Steelers)
At 6’5” and 285 lbs, this is the largest of the top five wedge busters. With his primary position being a left defensive end, this is one large boy. His forty time may be a little slower than the other four on this list, but he makes up for speed in heart and size. He has had some injury troubles in the beginning of his career, but he is looking healthy coming into this year. Take one look at a picture of this guy, and you know that he can bust a wedge.
While not every league has wedge busters built into their scoring system, I hope that this helps those of you that do. For everyone out there who does not recognize these great men in their fantasy leagues, shame on you.
Wedge Busters can now be found on every level of football. To read more about high school wedge busters, click on the following link: The Wedge Buster of Beth Page High School