When Chris Anzevino accepted a football scholarship to Kent State in 2007, he wasn’t sure how long it would take to earn substantial playing time. After all, just to make it at the Division I level was tough enough, let alone beating out upperclassmen for a starting spot.
But the Warren Harding High graduate worked hard in the weight room and learned Kent’s defensive scheme as well as he could. Then an interesting thing happened that ended up being the best thing for Anzevino — he switched to offense.
“I came here as a defensive lineman, but after my redshirt year, I switched over to offense,” said Anzevino, who is the Golden Flashes’ starting center as a sophomore. “It was just a better opportunity to play and I think I play better on the offensive line than on defense anyway. It’s just a different mentality.
“But having played defense before, it helps because after watching film, I can sometimes have that instinct for what my guy is going to try to do. It helps more with pass blocking than with run blocking.”
Having played high school football at Division I Harding, Anzevino felt as prepared as he could have expected when trying to make the transition to the big school college level.
Although he didn’t end up at a Big Ten school, which most would consider more competitive than the teams in the MAC, Anzevino believes that for most part, the playing field is level.
“Most of the guys in the MAC couldn’t go to the Big Ten just because they aren’t 6-5 and 350 pounds,” he said. “Maybe at the really strong programs, those linemen are bigger and stronger. But with the regular teams, I think the lines in the MAC are just as good and have the same toughness.
“Playing at Harding, we played against Massillon, and St. Ed’s and St. Ignatius, so I went against some of the best kids in the state. But at the college level, I’m going against grown men. At like 18 years old, I’m playing against 22- and 23-year-olds, who are just more developed. At first, it was like, ‘Wow, everyone is as big as me.’”
Anzevino said the biggest adjustment he’s had to make in the college ranks has been developing better footwork. At practice, every play is filmed, so he can review his performance and try to fine-tune his mistakes.
As a center, Anzevino is just one of two players on the field that touches the ball on every play. If he doesn’t do his job exactly right, everyone knows it. There is a lot to think about even before the play begins — having a good snap, knowing what the defense is going to do and keeping your head up and being ready to block whoever is lined up in front of him.
He says there is no pressure because of all the repetition in practices and knowing that he’s built some consistency.
“It just feels natural now – you snap the ball and go,” said Anzevino. “Every center is going to have a bad snap here and there. At first it was hard because you have to snap the ball and you the guy right over you is about to try and crush you. But I just take it one play at a time and try to get better every play and every game.”
Anzevino has started all five games for Kent State this season. Heading into this Saturday’s game against Bowling Green, the Golden Flashes are 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the MAC East.
The squad lost star running back Eugene Jarvis for the season to a lacerated kidney and has had several other injuries in the early going. Anzevino, though likes how his team has responded to adversity.
“Obviously, losing Eugene was a big blow,” he said. “And we’re hoping he gets another year next year. But we’re just playing as a team right now and hoping to do well in the league.”
As for his future, Anzevino isn’t looking too far ahead.
“All our goals are to get to the NFL,” he said. “But I have to get better every day and get my degree first, so I can teach. If I just play my hardest and do things the right way, then God-willing it will work out.”