UCF recently picked up a commitment from New York quarterback Rob Calabrese, who was sold on the Knights' program during a visit to the campus in late June. Calabrese attends East Islip High School in Long Island, which is the alma mater of defensive line coach Jim Panagos and just a stones throw away from Central Islip, where head coach George O'Leary grew up.
How was your trip down to UCF? You obviously committed on the spot-- was it evertyhing you thought it would be?
"It was a lot more than I thought it would be. I knew they had great facilities and everything, and a new stadium, but when I got down there it just blew me away. I've visited places in the Big East and ACC and UCF, by far, has a lot better facilities and campus than any of those other schools."
How long was the trip? Did your coach, Sal Ciampi, Jr., come with you?
"My coach was down there already getting some stuff. We're putting in a new offense and we're going to run somewhat of UCF's offense. Coach Ciampi was down there a day before me getting some stuff. My parents and I flew down Friday morning and then we stayed until Saturday afternoon. We stayed at the Radisson about a mile and a half down the road. It was a great time. I was pumped up."
What was Friday like? Did you spend all day seeing the campus and meeting with the coaches?
"That's what happened. We flew down Friday at 10 and right away went to the football facility to meet with Coach O'Leary. I was kind of nervous, but we sat down and he was joking around with me. He's a good guy, a real funny guy. I felt real comfortable with the coaching staff. I trust the coaching staff with Coach Panagos, Coach O'Leary and Coach Godsey, the quarterbacks coach."
Did you get to spend a lot of time with Coach Godsey, who would be your future position coach?
"I actually sat down with him and we went over what the quarterbacks have to do at their school. As an incoming freshman he sends out a quarterback manual. The book is actually very thick and I was like wow, but he said it's pretty easy once you get used to it. He's a great guy and he's cool. I like him a lot. He seems like he knows what he's talking about. He was trying to help me throw the ball better from seeing my highlight tape."
Did he show you some of the things UCF does on offense? Did he explain their system to you a little bit?
"We were on the drawing boards and he was going over some coverages which I knew. He was going over what they run and what they call the coverages. Just getting some basic simple stuff down. Next year, after football season, he's going to send that quarterback manual out and I'll have to fill out some things and get used to all of that. I think it's pretty cool he gets you started early."
What else did you do that day? Did they show you the campus and all the football facilities?
"We were there the whole day. Ed Marynowitz, he played quarterback at UCF and now he's the recruiting assistant. He's a really cool guy. He gave us a tour in the golf cart. We went to the student center and bought some UCF stuff, like t-shirts and my parents bought some things. After the tour and everything I got to sit down with Coach O'Leary again. I told him that I felt comfortable committing. This is the right school for me, that's what I told him."
How did the coaches react? Were they pretty excited you were coming on board?
"It seemed like Coach O'Leary was excited. As soon as I told him he got up and gave me a big handshake and said, 'Welcome to the family.""
What put UCF over the top? Did you have a feeling that it was the place for you as soon as you got on campus?
"I felt at home. At some of the other places, talking to the coaches, I didn't really trust those coaches. I felt at home and I fet like I could trust these coaches. They're going to take care of me and make me graduate, that's the most important thing."
Do you think you took the coaches by surprise when you committed right away?
"I knew it was a great place. I knew that's where I would probably end up before visiting here. I think they had an idea I was going to commit when I was down there. I was just blown away by the facilities."
Did you meet any of other coaches again after the commitment?
"Yeah. All the coaches shook my hand and were saying welcome to the family and telling me I'm a Knight. I like all the coaches down there."
Did you get a chance to meet any players while you were down there?
"I met Kyle Israel, the starting quarterback. I got to see his dorm and that place was awesome. You get your own living room, kitchen and two separate bedrooms so you don't have to share a room with anybody. It's awesome down there."
Was your coach excited about the commitment too?
"My coach (Sal Ciampi, Jr.) is very excited. He's been telling me from the beginning that UCF would be the place for me. I talked to him on a daily basis and he's a great guy. He knew that's where I wanted to be and they're very excited down at my school."
Was your family also impressed by everything they saw?
"My parents are very excited. They love it down there. They also trust the coaches and they wanted what's best for me. I told them this is the best place for me to go."
What did you think about the football facilities at UCF?
"They have the only indoor practice field in Florida, that's pretty impressive. They're building a brand new stadium. Everything is being built down there. It's just awesome what they're doing down there."
Did the coaches explain the quarterback situation to you? Do you think you have a chance to play early?
"Maybe. They brought in three kids this year, one of them is a JUCO transfer and they said another one might be a tight end. They said I will probably redshirt my freshman year. If not, they said I guess I might be a twisted ankle away from playing time. That's kind of bad to say though."
Is it a relief to have this recruiting behind you now?
"I wanted to get this process over with. It's so much better now. I can focus on my team and winning a championship, bringing it back to East Islip."
Do you consider yourself solid with the decision? Would you be willing to visit other schools if they wanted you to?
"I was supposed to go camp at Virginia and Maryland this week and those coaches have been in touch a lot and I've been calling them a little bit. I was supposed to go to the one day camp, but after talking to Coach O'Leary he said my commitment is like a relationship. If I go and look at different schools he'll do the same thing. I gave him my word. I'm not going anywhere else."
Are you going to try and make it back down to Orlando for one of UCF's home games in the new stadium?
"I might take my official visit when UCF plays Memphis (Sept. 22) at home. I play a game that Thursday and I have that weekend off."