Fabiani shines on combine circuit Eagle So. named NUC All-American
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
D.J. Fabiani has yet to play a down of high school football. Yet the Cocalico sophomore, who will finally get that opportunity Friday night at Exeter, has already made a name for himself across the country.
The 5-10, 170-pounder, who dreams of playing college football at the highest level some day, is already off to a good start, thanks to his participation in the NUC (National Underclassmen Combine) this past summer.
Fabiani, a defensive back/running back/kick returner, said he entered the NUC program just to get a feel for where he was at, and by the time it was all said and done, he by far exceeded his own expectations. The Eagle sophomore advanced through three combines, all the way to the University of Oklahoma, where he earned the right to compete against the top 150 players from around the country.
His run was capped off by being selected to the NUC All-American Sophomore Team.
"It was a great experience," Fabiani said. "I originally thought this year would be just to get experience. I really didn’t think I’d go too far, but then I ended up going all the way. It was pretty exciting."
Fabiani started his journey at the local NUC Combine event in Harrisburg, one of the many local events held around the country. Unfortunately, he got sick so he and his dad Dominic decided to go to Johnstown, the next closest site.
At the combine, the athletes are tested similarly to the NFL Combine. They run the 40, get tested in vertical and broad jumps, and bench press. In addition, the players are evaluated through 1-on-1 drills, 7-on-7s and other on-field skills.
Following the competition, Fabiani was named winner of the Freshman Combine King Award, and was named the Defensive Back MVP.
"He had a phenomenal performance," Dominic said. "His numbers were through the roof."
Because of his performance at the local event, Fabiani was invited to compete at the U-100 Combine in Smyrna, Delaware, which featured the top 100 players from all the local combines held in the northeast (a total of nine states).
The Delaware site was one of five regional combines throughout the U.S. The others included Georgia, Texas, Los Angeles and Indianapolis.
"Being there was a little intimidating," D.J. admitted. "There were some bigger kids there, bigger than the L-L League has, and definitely more talented."
But Fabiani more than held his own.
"He did well during the combine stuff at Delaware," Dominic said. "He was right there with everybody. But what happened was when they got to the 7-on-7s, by that point he was really comfortable, and the coach that was running the team, they were rotating d-backs, they told just him not to come off the field. They made him stay on the field the entire time and the other kids would just rotate in. They put him in against the best receivers and he would just shut that side of the field down. It worked out really well for him."
From his excellent play at Delaware, Fabiani was one of 30 players selected from that combine to attend the final NUC event held July 22-23 at the University of Oklahoma, where he would competed against the top freshman prospects in the country.
Again, in Oklahoma he rose to the challenge and proved to be one of the top talents there. His biggest honor was being named defensive captain.
"He had the responsibilities of calling the defensive plays, and making sure everybody was in the right place on the field," Dominic said.
DJ added, "In Oklahoma, it wasn’t a combine situation anymore. It was just 7-on-7s, 2-on-2s and 1-on-1s…Just to see what you could do and how you play football. It was a lot more fun there. It was about competing against each other at the highest level."
And he was able to rub shoulders with some of the players who will be suiting up for the Sooners this fall.
"His experience at Oklahoma was unbelievable because he got to meet players," Dominic said. "He went into the stadium. And we caught a couple guys coming out of the weight room and they were really happy to take pictures and talk with us, telling them what it’s like playing at that level…it was pretty neat. It was an awesome weekend for him and his future dreams of playing college football."
In addition to being named to the All-American team, D.J. was invited to play in an all-star football game in Myrtle Beach in December, featuring the top 50 players from the north and the top 50 from the south.
Unfortunately, he’ll have to pass on that. PIAA rules prohibit players from hitting outside of football season.
"The important part is he made it," Dominic said. "As D.J. said, we went into this this year just looking to learn and see what (the combines) are about. But each time we went to an event, he was the kid that was pulled out and picked to move on. We were quite shocked ourselves how far he was able to go."
Asked what he got out of the whole experience, D.J. said, "That there is always room to improve and get better."
Up next, Fabiani is ready for the challenge of the high school football season. He’ll be looking to make an impact in the Cocalico secondary this fall. And then next summer, they’ll do the combine circuit all over again.
His ultimate goal is to play at the Division One collegiate level.
"Once he plays some varsity football we’ll have some footage on him," Dominic said. "Unfortunately we don’t have footage yet so it’s a little difficult to reach out to Division One programs. But there are quite a few D-Two schools on the list that already are aware of him. And then next year we’ll do the combine thing again. He’ll compete as a 10th grader next year because obviously we want the top schools in the country to be aware of him. We want him to do it again as a year older, and of course there is room in his stats to improve. He works hard, and we plan on improving those. He had a 32 1/2 inch vertical, and an 8 foot, 8 inch broad, which put him up there with the elite in the country. But if he keeps working, maybe he can top that.
"We are looking for him to improve, go back and do it again, and show them that it wasn’t a fluke, that he’s for real, and hopefully he’ll get to where he wants to go."
More FABIANI, page B3