Before the summer of 2013 is officially over, Steven Casali of Sachem East and William Stanback of Uniondale will learn exactly what it is they signed up for Wednesday when they made their college choices official.
Casali, the Hansen Award winner and first-team All-Long Island linebacker/running back who signed his national letter intent to attend the University of Massachusetts, opens his college career with a game at Big 10 powerhouse Wisconsin on Aug. 31. Stanback, a second-team All-Long Island running back/linebacker who signed his NLI to the University of Central Florida, will play at Penn State on Sept. 14.
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"It's not high school anymore," Casali said with a laugh. "Wisconsin? That's a big jump. The speed of the game is so much different, but it'll be a great challenge."
Casali, who was part of a special signing day celebration at the high school, said he's been told by the Minutemen coaching staff that he will move from inside to outside linebacker and will be given an opportunity to start right away. He made a verbal commitment last July to a school that moved up to Division I (Bowl Championship Subdivision) in 2012 and suffered growing pains with a 1-11 record, looking at it like Sachem East. We were 1-7 and 0-8 in my freshman and sophomore years," Casali said. "Then we made the playoffs the last two years and turned around the program. We've got a really good recruiting class and I have no doubt that we'll be up there winning games before I'm done."
He will have company on that journey. Casali's parents, Steven and Susan, were at Sachem East Wednesday and said they will be attending every one of their son's games, home and away, which will include trips to Notre Dame and Florida State before his college career ends.
Flaming Arrows coach Mark Wojciechowski called Casali "the whole package. I'll be sorry to see him go. Not just as a player but for what he did off the field. He's a role model -- a great kid, a great teammate, a great friend. He's the same way even when no one is watching. There's no fake in him."
Stanback, who will play for former Central Islip player and coach George O'Leary at UCF, is another character guy. "He's humble and he's hungry," retiring Uniondale coach Greg Didio said of the player who requested that Didio switch him from running back to quarterback midway through the 2012 season and led the Knights on a four-game winning streak and into the playoffs for a second straight year. "He's going to be a special player in college."
Stanback's teammate, defensive end/linebacker Tyler Desire, who will attend Princeton, joined him at the Uniondale announcement.
Stanback drew interest from schools like Syracuse and Connecticut before choosing UCF, also a Division I (BCS) school, at the last minute. His college position is currently listed on the school's website as "athlete," but Stanback expects to play tailback. "That's been my position since I was a kid. I grew up watching all those running backs on ESPN and my goal is to play in the NFL," Stanback said. "In college, I'll do whatever they ask -- running back, receiver, kick returner, punt returner. All I ask is for a chance."
His parents, Billy and Patricia Stanback, attended the ceremony at Uniondale Wednesday, beaming with pride as their son signed his document. "I felt really good inside to have them there," Stanback said. "It made me warm in my heart to know that they are seeing their oldest child moving on in life and taking the right path."
Added Stanback, with a chuckle that undoubtedly resonated across the country on National Signing Day, "And it's great that they don't have to spend money to send me to college."