Florida star joins rookies at first football practices
By Brooks Hatch
CORVALLIS - It's been a whirlwind weekend for Sabatino "Sabby" Piscitelli.
On Friday, the personable 18-year-old was playing golf with his former high school football coaches in the stifling heat and humidity in his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla.
On Saturday, he went to nearby Fort Lauderdale, said his good-byes to family and friends and boarded a 5:30 a.m. flight for the West Coast and his new life as a college student.
Today he'll go through his first practices as a Division I-A scholarship player when Oregon State opens fall workouts at Prothro Field, a prospect that seemed bleak after he wasn't offered a major-college letter of intent this past February.
"That's exactly why I came here,'' Piscitelli said Saturday, shortly after he and the other first-year Beavers had checked into Finley Hall, their fall camp residence.
"I'd read articles about how I was overlooked; I wasn't getting mad, I just wanted an opportunity to prove myself, that's all.
"I didn't want to be the guy who got overlooked and never got the chance to play. So I was lucky I got the opportunity; Oregon State gave me a good offer and I took it.''
Dailey doubles are planned for 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. today and Tuesday. After two days of testing and further orientation, the veterans will join them for Thursday's workouts. Daily doubles continue through Aug. 20 in preparation for the Aug. 29 opener with Eastern Kentucky at Reser Stadium.
The Beavers discovered Piscitelli through an unexpected source. He was a Boca Raton High School teammate of Scott Clifford, the son of OSU director of student affairs Robert Clifford, when the elder Clifford worked at nearby Florida Atlantic University.
So when Robert Clifford learned that Piscitelli hadn't yet received any Division I-A scholarship offers, he told him to send some video to the Beavers for a look-see.
"He (Clifford) knows our kids, and he though that Sabby could play out there,'' Boca Raton coach Brian Dodds said Friday in recounting the hook-up. "I think Sabby was just one of those kids who got overlooked.
"Every year you're going to get a bona-fide player who doesn't sign in February. We had a great team, and he had the best year" of anyone on a 10-2 squad that won its league and defeated eventual Florida 5A state champion W.T. Dwyer during the regular season.
"When you watch our highlight film, he's everywhere. People are surprised by his speed (4.42). Recruiters come to Florida and they go after fast, athletic kids and that's what Sabby is. We have a receiver who has verbally committed to Texas for next year (Jimmy Sutton) and Sabby was outrunning him in our spring practices last year.
"He's a very good all-around athlete and can play several positions. He'll fit in somewhere; maybe not in his first year, but by the time he's a junior you'll hear his name because he's very talented.''
The Beavers promised Piscitelli the chance to walk-on and receive the first available scholarship long before his stock rose dramatically during the May evaluation period. Recruiters from more than 60 schools visited Boca Raton in search of 2003 prospects; they also saw the still-unsigned Piscitelli tearing up the field and immediately realized their oversight.
"(OSU) told me they wanted to offer me, but they weren't sure if they had a scholarship open,'' Piscitelli said. "So they called me every week, kept me right there, and when one opened up they offered it to me. They kept their word.
"A lot of schools offered me late. I had five or six offers in a week in May,'' from Connecticut, East Carolina, Vanderbilt, Akron and every in-state school except Miami, Florida and Florida State. "I almost went to ECU; I visited there right before I came here.
"It was a great opportunity because they wanted me to play early but it wasn't the Pac-10. I've always loved the Pac-10; I've had a couple friend go to the Pac-10, like Rich Alexis of Washington and some other kids.''
Piscitelli visited campus in June an
d signed a scholarship agreement after returning to Florida. He came back to Corvallis from July 8-24 to participate in summer conditioning drills.
"I love the facilities,'' he said. "Oregon State talked to me early. I looked at my other options and probably the best opportunity for me was in the Pac-10 with Oregon State.''
Brooks Hatch covers sports for the Mid-Valley Sunday. He can be reached at email@example.com
At a glance
WHO: Sabatino "Sabby" Piscitelli
WHAT: True freshman safety on the Oregon State football team
AGE, SIZE: 18 years old; 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
HOMETOWN: Boca Raton, Fla.
FAMILY: Parents Sabatino and Diane Piscitelli; sister Sabrina (21), brother Sean (15)
EDUCATION: Graduated from Boca Raton Community High School in 2002
STATS: Had 62 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries on defense and had 22 receptions for 420 yards and four touchdowns on offense.
ETC.: Two-year starter at free safety and wide receiver … Was Boca Raton News Defensive Player of the Year in District 10; team MVP, all-area, all-county, all-conference and second-team all-state … ran 4.42 in 40-yard dash … also lettered four years in baseball as an outfielder.
QUOTE: "I'll just play my best and if the coaches think it's better for me to redshirt, then I'll redshirt. If they think I can play, then I'll give it all I've got.''