Football: DeCicco hoping to land in NFL Draft

By Tony Jovenitti

Pitt senior Dom DeCicco isn’t a showman, and his personality and style of play lack the flair… Pitt senior Dom DeCicco isn’t a showman, and his personality and style of play lack the flair that some other safeties and linebackers entering the 2011 NFL Draft have. But that’s the only weakness that his agent, Drew Smith, sees in his game.

“He’s very good in every aspect of the game,” Smith said. “There’s not one thing that you can really put your finger on and say, ‘That’s what he is so much better than everybody else in.’ But he’s above average in every single category.”

A versatile athlete, DeCicco proved to be a valuable member as a three year starter of Pitt’s defense and he hopes that his wide array of skills merits him as a late round draft pick.

DeCicco started in 12 games for the Panthers this season. He began the year at strong safety but switched to linebacker when the injury bug hit that position. DeCicco thrived under the change, snagging five interceptions and registering 94 tackles.

“A lot of teams have looked at me as a linebacker,” DeCicco said. “Some nickel [cornerback] and some safety, but the majority are probably linebacker and special teams.”

Smith said how DeCicco will be utilized on an NFL roster depends on what defensive scheme a team runs.

“A team like the Pittsburgh Steelers would run him as a safety, because he doesn’t really fit that outside linebacker mold for their type of defense,” Smith said. “But for a 4-3 defense, he’ll be an ideal outside linebacker. That’s kind of where we’re getting a lot of interest from, those 4-3 teams who utilize a more athletic outside linebacker.”

According to, DeCicco ranks No. 245 among overall draft prospects and No. 10 among safeties. But Yahoo! Sports puts him at No. 616, and ranks him as the No. 32 safety. The jury might still be out on DeCicco, but he hopes to hear his name called in the sixth or seventh round of the draft.

“I think I have a chance to get drafted in the later rounds,” DeCicco said. The senior will graduate with a major in communication after Pitt’s first summer session.

“My hunch is that he’ll probably be a sixth to seventh round player,” Smith said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if he went in the fifth round, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he went to free agency.”

DeCicco’s successful pro day could catapult him past some other prospects, as his strong showing likely quieted any critics of his skills.

“I think there were a lot of question marks about his athletic ability that were answered on pro day,” Smith said. “He had probably the best pro day of any of the Pitt players.”

That, combined with his excellent career at Pitt, could be incentive enough for a team to announce DeCicco’s name at the end of the month. In four years, DeCicco racked up 12 interceptions and 244 tackles. He’s also led a relatively healthy career, only missing one game this season with a hamstring injury.

“The only real issue he ever had was a little bit of that hamstring, which was something that was corrected,” Smith said.

Additionally, the defensive scheme that DeCicco ran at Pitt closely resembled the types that NFL teams use.

“We played a pro-style defense here at Pitt, so it was pretty easy to translate what we did at Pitt to what the guys are teaching at different NFL teams,” DeCicco said. “So I felt that helped.”

Smith couldn’t reveal which teams expressed interest in DeCicco, but he did provide a few hints.

“There’s an NFC North team that’s showing a lot of interest in him,” Smith said. “And I’ll say that he was a favorite of Coach [Dave] Wannstedt, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he followed coach Wannstedt where he is now.”

Wannstedt, Pitt’s former head coach, recently accepted a job with the Buffalo Bills as the assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach.

“But he’s the type of player that could play on any NFL team, and every NFL team needs a player like him — for the special teams, for the attitude, and for the intangibles that a team looks for,” Smith said.

The draft takes place April 28-30 in New York, but the NFL, currently facing labor disputes between the owners and the players associations, is in the midst of a lockout and the 2011 season appears to be in jeopardy.

While the draft will take place during the lockout, after it’s over teams will not be able to sign free agents, so both drafted and undrafted players will need to wait until the end of the lockout to sign contracts.

“It’s a new territory, we’ve never seen anything like this before,” Smith said. “We don’t know if we’re going to get calls from teams during the draft like we normally do inquiring about free agents. It’s going to be weird.”

DeCicco said he plans on looking for a job until the lockout ends, but right now he’s focused on the draft.

“I just need to put myself in a position to get drafted,” DeCicco said. “With the lockout you can’t really sign with a team, so that would be frustrating.”

At this point, all he can do is wait.

“I feel like I did everything I could, so I feel pretty confident going into it.”