Offensive linemen are not going to be awe-struck when they look across and see Palatine senior Nick Novelli at defensive end.
But some of the area's biggest players have been left wondering who the 5-foot-7, 166-pound truck wearing No. 34 was that just hit them.
"With all of the big guys, we don't care if we're going up against Division I athletes, we love the competition," Novelli said after Saturday's Class 8A first-round playoff win over Proviso West. "It makes us play better.
"It's a pride thing if you're getting pushed back on the next play to make sure you push them back. I like going up against the bigger athletes."
There will be more of them facing Novelli and the 9-1 Pirates when they travel to 7-3 Glenbard North for Saturday's 6 p.m. second-round game.
It's a familiar scenario for Novelli, who played nose tackle in last year's first-round win over the bigger Panthers. And Novelli is well-prepared to move objects which might seem immovable for someone his size.
"He's a freak as far as strength goes," Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly said of Novelli's ability to do 17 bench-press repetitions of 225 pounds. "He brings a lot to our team on defense. He's such an emotional kid."
That's why it triggered such an emotional response when Novelli suffered a torn labrum in the first series of a victory over Barrington that put the Pirates on their way to a Mid-Suburban West title.
"Nick is the emotional leader and he's just crazy out there," Donnelly said. "It was a huge blow to us when he went out but we got him back at absolutely the perfect time."
Now Novelli has been back the last two weeks alongside Julian Turner, Andrew LaVeau, Josh Baldus, Nathan Gerdes, C.J. Machnik and Sam Miller on the front line of the MSL's best defense.
"I was very upset about that because I want to try to do anything for the team," said Novelli of missing three games because of the injury.
Despite the missed time, Novelli still has found his way to quarterbacks nine times for sacks. And the effect can be felt throughout the entire team.
"It rubs off," Novelli said. "As soon as one of us makes a play the kids on the sidelines are pumped.
"Everyone fires everyone up. We may not be the biggest group but that doesn't matter on our team. Our entire D-line has been together since last year and we all know what to do and know how each other plays."
Novelli tried to avoid opposing defenses as a ball carrier when he was younger but he was moved to the front lines when he arrived at Palatine. Some players might have fought the change but Novelli had no issues with his new role.
"I just do whatever the coaches tell me," Novelli said. "I'm ready for whatever and I'll put in 100 percent."
Novelli would like to continue playing next year but his main focus "is making the best of these last games" in a Palatine uniform. He hopes that lasts at least as long if not longer than last year's quarterfinal run.
A postseason opener where Proviso West scored its only touchdown in the final minutes was a good start for the Pirates.
"That was probably one of our best games of the season," Novelli said. "We knew they were an athletic team and we had to be disciplined throughout the game. We stuck to our game plan.
"Our defensive line is always on the hunt, all four of us, and our whole defense. It starts with us and goes to the backers and then back to the safeties."
And it usually doesn't take offensive linemen long to know keeping their quarterback safe won't be easy against Novelli and his teammates.