Sometimes, you're just born to be a Cane.
Highly-touted Tampa Alonso High defensive end Anthony Chickillo, whose father Tony (1979-82) and grandfather Nick (1950-52) played for the Hurricanes, realized that Thursday when he announced his intentions to be part of the University of Miami's 2011 signing class.
"Deep down in my heart, that's where I've wanted to be since I was a little kid," said Chickillo, a 6-4, 235-pound senior considered by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com to be a consensus Top 10 defensive end in the country. "I'm ready to be a Hurricane and help Miami recruit."
Chickillo had more than 50 scholarship offers. Last season, he played in only six games because of a broken collarbone, but still managed to compile 80 tackles, 12.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He announced his commitment just after 2 p.m. Thursday in his school gym, choosing Miami over Florida and South Florida.
Throughout the recruiting process, Chickillo said he made it a point not to let his family ties to Miami get in the way of picking the best school for him. But after making his announcement, Chickillo put on a Miami baseball cap and held up a shirt that said "THIRD GENERATION." On the back of the shirt it read: "BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER."
"Orange and green run through my veins," said Chickillo, who plans to enroll at UM in January. "As much as I tried to separate it, I couldn't. Once I figured out where I wanted to go, I didn't want to waste any coaches time. I told Coach Shannon and the staff last night and they were screaming."
Chickillo said the Gators and the hometown South Florida Bulls made his decision tough. "Both of them did a great job of recruiting me," Chickillo said. "My uncle in the beginning of the process was real worried. I was talking about Florida a lot. But my heart has always been in Miami. I grew up in Tampa. But I've always felt like my real hometown is Miami. Now, I'll just be going home."
The Hurricanes don't have many scholarships for the 2011 class. Chickillo becomes the program's seventh non-binding oral commitment. He likely will be the only defensive end the Canes sign.
"They want me to be a speed rusher, maybe come in and contribute on passing situations," Chickillo said. "I'm excited to be a part of the defensive line. They have a great group of guys right now. I saw they had eight or nine sacks against FAMU. They didn't have that in any game last year. You can tell they're improving with coach Petri, he's a technique guy. We clicked from the beginning."
Tony Chickillo, who was the starting nose guard for the first Hurricanes team to beat a No. 1-ranked team (Penn State, 1981) in the modern era, said UM coach Randy Shannon did a great job fostering a relationship over the years with his son. Anthony Chickillo has been attending UM football camps since he was six years old.
"I remember how Anthony used to drive Randy crazy because he always wanted to go and practice with the older kids," Tony Chickillo said. "I would have been damned if [Anthony] didn't go there. We've been season ticket holders for 20 years. He cried when the 58-game winning streak came to an end and when they tore down the Orange Bowl. Being a Cane has just always been in his DNA."
Nick Chickillo, an All-American guard in 1952, passed away in 2000. But Tony Chickillo said his father always knew his son would follow in their footsteps.
"When Anthony was real young he was a good little league player, but he wasn't sensational. He just loved the game," said Tony Chickillo, now an area sales manager for Brulin.com, a company which sells industrial cleaning products. "Nick saw something in Anthony before we all did. He always used to tell me that I had to prepare him for high school because he was going to be a good one. We're all very proud."