Norwin linebacker Gianni Rizzo commits to Youngstown State

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Friday, August 3, 2018 | 7:03 PM


Gianni Rizzo recently returned from vacationing in Naples, Fla. with less stress on his mind than he took with him. He felt similarly clearheaded and light on his feet after making his college football decision.

The incoming senior from Norwin announced Friday evening on Twitter he has committed to Youngstown State, leaving him with less to worry about going into his final prep season.

“It’s good to get it off my chest,” said Rizzo, a linebacker and wide receiver. “It’s a big night, but I am extremely happy to say that this long journey is over.”

Rizzo had 15 offers, primarily from Division I-FCS programs, and said during WPXI Skylights Media Day last month at Heinz Field that he had narrowed his top five to Youngstown State, Albany, Elon, Holy Cross and Fordham. He also had a chance to play at Army West Point.

“With Youngstown State, it was a distance thing,” he said. “It’s an easy drive, an hour-and-a-half, so my whole family can come out and watch me.”

Like so many recruits, Rizzo (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) said he felt a “connection” to his next school. He visited campus once, like he did the rest of his potential suitors, and plans to take an official visit in December.

“I felt wanted,” he said. “I got to sit down with coach Bo Pelini. And they play the best competition in FCS football. They play a huge nonconference schedule — they beat Pitt a few years ago. And I get to go there for free.”

Rizzo said he was recruited as a linebacker, potentially an outside ‘backer, which would be his optimal situation.

He will be a valuable two-way player for Norwin, which will enter the season with raised expectations. The Knights also will feature safety and running back Jayvon Thrift, who has a number of Division I-FBS offers, and junior quarterback Jack Salopek, who has an offer from Pitt.

Last season, Rizzo led the Knights with 39 receptions for 506 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with more than 600 all-purpose yards, also seeing time as a kick returner and briefly as a rusher.

He had back-to-back eight-catch games, against Peters Township and Mt. Lebanon, gaining 91 and 70 yards, respectively.

Rizzo shined on defense as a pass-rushing threat, making 49 tackles (29 solo), including 11 for losses and five sacks. Add to that an interception and two forced fumbles.

His speed is one of the main attributes colleges like. He helped lead the Knights’ 1,600-meter relay to a PIAA title.

Rizzo will be the second member of his family to play college football. His brother, Dante, will be a a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman at Edinboro.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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