Anyone who grows up with an older sibling knows how difficult stepping out of their shadow can prove to be. When your older brother ranks in the upper echelon of linebackers hailing from Slippery Rock, the task can appear rather daunting.
Watching his brother rack up tackles at Mihalik-Thompson stadium for four seasons, redshirt sophomore linebacker Tim Vernick built an early connection with the university where he would one day roam the same field as his older brother.
Coming out of nearby Butler High School, only Slippery Rock offered Vernick a scholarship to continue playing football at the next level and the talented linebacker has rewarded their faith by leading The Rock in tackles during the 2018 season and, in the process, won The Rocket’s November Athlete of the Month poll.
“Mainly because it was my only scholarship offer out of high school, but I wanted to go somewhere closer to home and my brother played here,” commented Vernick. “I would come up for the games and I fell in love with the campus.”
During Bob Vernick’s career with The Rock, his individual stat lines were some of the most well-rounded totals ever recorded. His career-best tackles total in a single season was 90. Tim reached 92 this season.
Ranking in the top four of many defensive categories this season–tackles, tackles for loss, sacks–Vernick finally received the full attention that has been lacking throughout his playing career when he defeated teammate Wes Hills in a closely contested Athlete of the Month poll.
“It feels good. It’s a product of all the hard work that I’ve put in throughout the week and throughout the years and it’s nice to just finally get some recognition,” Vernick admitted.
With a slow start to the season in which the computer science major only racked up 34 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and no sacks through the first seven games of the season, Vernick said that his effort levels through the season never wavered but the results just did not meet his expectations.
“I didn’t really do anything different. Just kind of kept focusing and kept working at it,” Vernick said. “I had some struggles in the beginning of the year, so I wasn’t really producing as much as I’d hoped, and I guess something just clicked and I was able to put it all together on the field and I was able to produce.”
Over the final seven games of the season, things fell into place for the hard-working Butler county native. With 58 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, Vernick began producing against tough PSAC West opponents and nationally ranked playoff opposition.
Leading the Green and White in tackles, Slippery Rock head coach Shawn Lutz attributed Vernick’s emergence as a sophomore to his indominable work effort.
“He never settles for anything,” Lutz said. “Tim battled through a little bit last year with starts and not starts. He doesn’t take anything for granted. He’s the type of guy that he might be lifting right off the bat once the season is over.”
The November slate of games featured ranked match-ups with West Chester University, LIU Post, New Haven and Notre Dame College. In the contests with four nationally-ranked programs, Vernick recorded the best month of his season.
With 44 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, one sack and a pass breakup, Lutz said that Vernick is the kind of player to play better and better as the season wears on and the intensity heightens.
“There’s no stage that’s too big for him. He just plays and competes, and I think the bigger the game, he gets a little bit more excited. You just get that feel for it and big players step up in big games and he’s a big player type of guy,” Lutz said.
Although the result against no. 1 seed Notre Dame College did not favor the Green and White, Vernick put together one of the greatest games of the season–10 tackles and 3 tackles for loss–and the experience gained from the high-stakes, road match will only spawn better performances and stronger leadership.
“I think I can learn in ways that help my team more like when guys are shifting their focus to other things that aren’t the game, I can help them get back on track,” expressed Vernick. “I can take that experience and put that into every other game that I play now on where I know if I align another way or position somewhere else, I’ll be able to make the play.”
With the best November of Vernick’s playing career now in the books, the Green and White will lean on the punishing linebacker’s experience and talent as next season’s squad will carry a lot of hype. Losing experienced defensive lineman Tim Soave and cornerback Kyle Hall will force Vernick into a leadership role and he is ready for it.
“My only expectation is that we’re going to win the PSAC Championship. We’re going to win the regional championship and see how far we’ll be able to go.”
With 120 tackles through the first two seasons of his Rock career, Vernick sits 123 tackles behind Bob’s career total. With a couple of more months like this, Tim will be there in no time.