Despite the frustrations of things not going your way at first, they tend to work themselves out. Long Island University freshman quarterback Luca Stanzani is a perfect example of that.
Playing for Clearwater Academy International in Florida, Stanzani played five seasons of varsity high school football and was a captain for four years. He led the Knights to the 2021 state championship and finished his high school career with 13,369 yards, the second most in Florida prep history.
But he heard the same thing time after time from coaches when he was going through the college recruiting process.
At 5 feet 11 inches, he was too small.
“I’ve been told that from a few college coaches,” said Stanzani, who has led LIU to three straight wins since being inserted as the starting quarterback.
“I’ve been told that I have the talent and the arm ability but I get overlooked because of my height and my size. I knew that was a factor being recruited. I’m happy to be here so it worked out at the end of the day.”
It’s certainly worked out for all parties involved. Stanzani and the Sharks are enjoying some success after starting the season 0-7.
Not bad for a guy that was said to be “too small.”
“If he wasn’t 5-11, he wouldn’t be here,” said LIU head coach Ron Cooper. “He broke every record there is in Florida so usually that guy is at Florida playing right now but he’s 5-foot-11, so we’re fortunate and happy that he’s here. He’s calm and cool and understands it. He’s got leadership ability so I’m definitely pleased with him.”
Stanzani was contacted by LIU after signing day in February and let him know that they were very interested in arranging a visit. Later that month, Stanzani travelled to Long Island to meet with the coaches and players and the rest, as they say, was history.
“They kept telling me how much they wanted me and how much they loved my film and me as a player and a person,” said Stanzani. “It just felt right so I decided to commit and sign and I came in the summer.”
Since being named the starting quarterback before the Oct. 29 game at Duquesne, Stanzani has led the Sharks to a 3-0 record while passing for 1,027 yards and nine touchdowns. On the ground, he’s rushed 7 times for 40 yards and a touchdown.
He’s certainly opened up a lot of eyes around the country and the accolades have been rolling in.
Stanzani was named the FedEx FCS National Freshman of the Week when he passed for 346 yards and four touchdowns and scored the game-winning two-point conversion in the Sharks’ victory at Duquesne.
He was also named NEC Rookie of the Week and NEC Prime Performer in leading LIU in his next two wins.
“I came here to play and to see all my work pay off was really cool,” said Stanzani. “I have a lot of people back home, family and friends that are really proud of me, that know what I’ve been through.”
Even though he performed well in training camp, Stanzani started the year as the backup to Derek Green, the son of former NFL quarterback Trent Green, who had transferred from SMU.
The decision was made to give Stanzani more time to learn.
Eventually, it was time for Stanzani to take over.
“We made a change at quarterback,” said Cooper. “I probably could have made it earlier, but I wanted to give our transfer every opportunity. (Luca has) been cool and calm and understands the scheme.”
Stanzani has certainly enjoyed the opportunity to play and help his team win three games, but in his short time at the LIU campus in Brookville, he has also really enjoyed living on Long Island.
There’s a lot to like about Long Island — even the weather.
“During the summer having no humidity compared to Tampa, Florida was very nice,” said Stanzani. “It was hot but no humidity is awesome. Fall is beautiful. I’ve never lived through a fall. The cold is starting to get to me now.”
He’ll get used to it. That’s because Stanzani was born in Buffalo before he moved to Clearwater, Florida where he was raised. He still has family in Buffalo, so he’s familiar with the territory of what a winter in the Northeast is like.
“I’ve lived weeks at a time in winter but I never lived fully through a winter,” said Stanzani, who has really taken to the Brookville area.
“It’s nice and clean and there’s a bunch of nice stores to go to,” said Stanzani. “My mom loves that too. She comes and shops until she drops every time.”
And there’s plenty of good restaurants in and around the LIU arena.
“The Kitchen Kabaret,” said Stanzani. “That’s the go-to spot. They have everything. It’s really good.”
Stanzani and the Sharks will close out their season on Saturday when they visit Sacred Heart. It’s a chance for Stanzani to help LIU finish the campaign with four straight wins while also continuing to make a statement to the schools who didn’t want him.
His primary focus is to win, but he also wants to see those coaches who didn’t believe in him to see what they have been missing out on.
“I definitely have that in the back of my mind,” said Stanzani. “That’s not the reason I’m playing, but I want to prove a lot of schools wrong.”
Jesse Chinchar was Stanzani’s head coach at Clearwater Academy and tried to help him find a college.
Chinchar actually contacted one of the schools that LIU has defeated this season but, “They never answered his message,” said Stanzani.
“I think that’s funny because I had a really good game against them,” said Stanzani on the team he wouldn’t name publicly.
There are some coaches that have admitted their mistakes.
“My (high school) coach has gotten several texts from some coaches congratulating me and like we should have done something or maybe we could have picked him up late,” said Stanzani.
At the end of the day, Luca Stanzani has had the last laugh. He’s had success as a freshman at LIU and the future certainly looks bright for Luca and the Sharks.
And he loves life on Long Island — so everything is working out for him.
Top: Long Island University freshman quarterback Luca Stanzani (#11) throwing a pass in a home game against Central Connecticut State on Nov.5. The Sharks would go on to win the game 29-20. Stanzani threw for 234 yards and one touchdown in the outing. (Credit: LIU Athletics)