Produce an average 12.1 tackles a game the way Nick Ratti did last season and a football player can’t help but be “all” in.
All-county. All-conference. All-Star.
This week, Whiteland Community High School’s former inside linebacker concludes his prep career as a participant in the annual Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Ratti is practicing with the South All-Stars along with three other former Johnson County players: linebacker Keith Sears (Center Grove) and offensive linemen Braxton Zachery (Indian Creek) and Austin Smogor (Center Grove).
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“I’m really excited to get the chance to represent Whiteland. I know Smogor and I know Sears. I used to play on their travel team in eighth grade,” said Ratti, a starter on the Warriors’ defense since his sophomore season.
“I just want to have fun. It’s my last Friday night game. Meet some new players. Talk to some kids, see where they’re going to college and just chit-chat. We’re all there for football, so I think we all have a special bond already.”
This keeps with Ratti’s “all” theme. All over the place on football fields in and around Whiteland, he plans to spread himself thin befriending athletes he once counted as opponents and even bitter rivals.
Ratti’s blue Whiteland helmet was decal-free when he departed for the University of Indianapolis on Sunday; what the headgear looks like come Friday night’s game at North Central High School is anybody’s guess.
Players historically collect decals of some of their All-Star teammates as the week progresses.
“Of course there will be a (Whiteland) Warrior head. Maybe if there’s anyone there from Decatur Central because … I hate Decatur, but I love playing them. (Decatur Central) and Center Grove are probably our rivals. I think I would be willing to put (a Hawks logo) on there,” Ratti said.
And Center Grove?
“I don’t think I could put a Center Grove number on there. No Center Grove for me. I just can’t do it,” he said, laughing.
Ratti leaves Aug. 7 to begin football practices at Olivet Nazarene University, an NAIA program in Bourbonnais, Illinois (an hour south of Chicago).
He dressed a total of 44 games as a Whiteland football player.
Not always the tallest, quickest or most-sought-after linebacker, he nonetheless found himself double- and sometimes even triple-teamed as a senior. Ratti still managed to post double-figure tackle totals in 10 of Whiteland’s 12 games.
Ratti haunted opposing ball carriers to the tune of 17 tackles in both of the Warriors’ wins against Franklin.
“Nick has maximized his talent with hard work and consistency. His mental and physical toughness have helped set the tone for our program for how we want to play the game,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said.
Ratti is able to bench-press 300 pounds, squat 500 and power-clean 300. Equally vital to his effectiveness is an understanding of how the position is played.
A knack for knowing where to be and when to be there.
“Linebacker is a position I’ve played since I was young. I wouldn’t say I’m the best, but I understand play calls and play movement and am able to react quicker than most people are,” Ratti said.
“I think people underestimate me because I am only 5-11, but I try to prove them wrong. I move fairly quickly for being 225 pounds. I catch a lot of people off-guard with that.”
THE RATTI FILE
Name: Nick Ratti
Born: Phoenix, AZ
Family: Parents, Al and Lori Balantini; sisters, Heather, 27, and Hailey, 22
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite food: Italian
Favorite movie: “Friday Night Lights”
Favorite athlete: Brian Urlacher
Favorite team: Chicago Bears