John Schilleci has lived in Denton his entire life and thinks the North Texas town is a great place to live.
So it should come as no surprise that the Guyer incoming senior committed on Monday morning to play college football in his hometown for North Texas and head coach Dan McCarney.
Oral commitments are non-binding. The first day a class of 2013 recruit can sign a national letter of intent is Feb. 6.
“I think it was the best decision for me,” said Schilleci, who played cornerback for Guyer as a junior but will move to safety for his senior season. “My family has been a big influence on me. Me moving far from home would be selfish. I love the head coach [McCarney]. I think it was just the best choice.”
Schilleci had another offer from Washington State, a similarly downtrodden program with an accomplished head coach about to enter his first season atop the program, much like McCarney did in 2011. McCarney led the Mean Green to a 5-7 finish, equaling its win total from the previous two years combined.
Schilleci said making the decision between playing for McCarney and new Washington State head coach Mike Leach was not an easy one, but the geography made it that way.
“It’s close to home, and you know what, both coaches are very good and I think they’ll both turn their programs around,” he said. “I think UNT was the best choice for me, especially when Texas is the best place for football. They’ll have a lot of options for recruits.”
Schilleci is the second Guyer player in the class of 2013 to commit to a Football Bowl Subdivision program, joining offensive tackle Patrick Morris, who committed to TCU back in April.
Unlike Morris, who had numerous offers, Schilleci’s recruiting was under the radar.
“I think I’m extremely aggressive,” Schilleci said of his style of play. “I think a lot of colleges saw that in me. You don’t see a lot of corners throwing receivers around, and I think I was one of the only corners doing that. I think that’s how I got noticed.”
Most of that, Guyer head coach John Walsh said, was because of the upcoming position change that led many programs to show interest in Schilleci but withhold an offer until seeing film of him at safety.
As a junior cornerback last season, Schilleci recorded 42 tackles with five coming behind the line of scrimmage. He added nine pass breakups and an interception while earning first-team District 7-5A honors. He also posed a physical threat to opposing offenses at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds with top-notch sprinter speed. He has clocked a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and won the District 7-5A title in the 100 meters as a sophomore with a 10.68.
“For us, he was a guy that always excelled in the offseason and in the weight room,” Walsh said. “On the grass, he was always fast. He just needed to come into his own as far as being a football player. He had an opportunity as a junior and made the most of it. He has a knack for making plays and he’s physical making those plays.
“You find guys that are athletic and can cover, but he made plays. He’ll make you think about catching a ball anywhere near him.”
Schilleci knows he will have more opportunities to make those physical plays with the position move to safety.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Schilleci said. “My family has wondered why they put me at corner. I just said they needed someone there. I’m really excited to get to safety now, though. At corner, the only action I could get was screens and they just eventually stopped doing that.”
Another thing that’s exciting for Schilleci? The prospect of breaking that apparent embargo of Denton products staying at home and playing football for the Mean Green.
“I believe so. I hope so,” Schilleci said of the idea. “UNT has always been kind of under the radar, but McCarney has already picked them up quite a bit. I think a lot of kids will start going there. Denton really is a great place to live. It’s got everything. It’s a good, small town.”
And rest easy, North Texas fans, Schilleci is already working on some of his Guyer teammates, including 2013 three-star wide receiver Ellis Jefferson and Jerrod Heard, who could end up being one of the top quarterback prospects in the country for 2014.
“That’d be extremely cool if a lot of local kids started going there [UNT],” Schilleci said. “I was talking with Jerrod and E.J. today. I think Jerrod is going to their camp pretty soon, and I thought how cool would it be if we all went there and [helped establish UNT’s program].”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .