Premium members of Bearcat Insider first learned of the Bearcats 9th verbal commitment after reading about him on our premium message board "Par's Place" on Saturday afternoon. While on his official visit, Mario Duenas took in a Bearcats basketball game, and enjoyed his stay in the Queen City. We spoke to Mario about his visit and his choice to become a Bearcat.
University of Cincinnati football fans have pointed out the lack of quality line play on the offensive side of the ball. While the team had its moments, providing consistent protection and running lanes became a problem the deeper the Bearcats went into the Big East Conference. Looking for players to take the field in the fall of 2006, Coach Mark Dantonio set out to find players who were tough and ready for action to fill the voids he felt needed to be filled.
While setting out in search of quality offensive linemen at the junior college level can be hard, Coach Dantonio and his staff worked in getting players with ability and the knowledge to come in and understand their roles within the team. What he's received so far are two players who will sign their letters of intent and enroll at UC in January. While Mario may have only been to Cincinnati one time, it didn't take him long to see the many positives being built within the football program. Here is what Mario had to say about his visit and his commitment.
BI: How was your trip to Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati?
MD: It was pretty good. It was very nice and I really enjoyed what I saw.
BI: What did you like most about your trip?
MD: The way the coaches treated me. They were honest about where they saw me in their program and I respect that a lot. I also liked the city. I've never been out of California before so it was a great experience.
BI: Did you have any problems with the weather?
MD: It was a little chilly, but it wasn't that bad. I'll just have to get use to it once I get there.
BI: So it sounds like you've made your commitment?
MD: Yes, I've given my commitment.
BI: So you will sign on Wednesday of this week?
MD: Yes, I'll sign on Wednesday.
BI: When will you report to Cincinnati?
MD: January 3 is when I'll be in Cincinnati.
BI: What stands out in your mind about the trip?
MD: How the coaches treated me like family. I really felt like I was part of the Bearcat family while I was there. They made me feel right at home and I feel they really care about me as a player and a person. I know I'll be treated well
BI: You made the trip with your family, did they enjoy the trip?
MD: Yes, they feel Cincinnati is a very nice city.
BI: What other programs were you looking at and who was showing interest in you?
BI: What made it easy to choose UC?
MD: I wanted to know a coach would be there when I'm there. I feel this staff will be here during my tie in the program.
BI: Who was your recruiting coach and what type of relationship were you able to build with him?
MD: Coach Staten recruited me, as for a relationship, I got to know him and feel he's a really good guy and a man of his word. He's also a very good coach.
BI: What are you looking at studying while at UC?
MD: I'm not sure yet, but I'm looking at Criminal Justice and maybe a minor in physoclgy, but I'm not sure yet.
BI: What was the main factor in picking Cincinnati?
MD: I first had to see if I felt I could live in Cincinnati. Not only getting to know a different city, but moving into a bigger conference. I also liked the amount of young players they have on the team. There is lots of young talent on this team.
BI: Lots of times offensive linemen are talked about having a teddy bear trait, how do you play the game? Are you a teddy bear or do you get after it?
MD: I have kind of a nasty streak in me. While many offensive linemen look to just get in the way, I look to get hit. I guess you could say I play offensive like a defensive linemen.
BI: Have the coaches talked about were you would play?
MD: They've told me because of my ability I could play tackle, but if not I'll be a pulling guard.
BI: What did you know about Cincinnati before they started recruiting you?
MD: I didn't know much. A friend of mine went to Cincinnati and I talked with him about it. His name was Travis McGee (2002-2003). But since he was there the staff is new.
BI: What did you know about the Big East?
MD: I knew it was a good conference and a competitive one.
BI: Is being so far away from home a concern for your parents?
MD: Yes in some ways. Parents never want you to go too far away, but they like my decision and will have to get use to it.
BI: What do you like to do away from football?
MD: I really like basketball. I also enjoy cars, learning about them and fixing them.
BI: Was you a football fan as a youth, and if so, what teams did you like both college and pro?
MD: Yes, I love football. Growing up I was a big 49ers fan and for college I liked Penn State.
BI: You just missed playing against Penn State. Did the type of schedule Cincinnati plays have anything to do with your choice?
MD: I love the schedule. I want to go against the best and I'll have that chance next year.
BI: What do you feel are your strengths and weakness as a player?
MD: I feel my strength is how I prepare myself. I work hard each and every day. I don't miss practice or workouts. I bust myself to be as good as I can be each and every day. As for my weakness, I know I have things to work on, but I feel right now my weakness is I get too emotional during a game. I need to learn more about staying focus on the task at hand and getting my job done instead of showing my emotions.
BI: What is something you feel fans will be surprised to learn about you?
MD: I think they will be surprised by my leadership abilities. I'm a leader! I also feel they will be surprised about my effort. I give it all I can until I can't give anymore.
BI: Let's look away from the field and get to know you a little more. What is your favorite food?
MD: I love pasta, but if I had to pick one dish it would be Chicken fettucine alfredo.
BI: What type of music do you like and what artist do you listen to?
MD: I like rap music. Right now I like listening to Mac Dre, more of a Bay Area style of music.
BI: Did you enjoy the game on Saturday?
MD: Yes, I had a great time watching the game.
BI: Who was your host for the weekend?
MD: Khalil El-Amin was my host. We really had a great time and ate a lot of food.
BI: You will not be the only junior college linemen signing on Wednesday, have you met the other lineman?
MD: No, he's from Los Angles but I hear he's a very good player.
BI: Will you two be roommates?
MD: They talked about it, but they were not sure at the time if we would be or not.
BI: Mario I would like to thank you for taking the time and talking with me about your visit and commitment to the Bearcats and at the same time welcome you to the Bearcats.
MD: Thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time and interviewing me.
Final Notes: When you go into an interview you never know what you will get on the other side of the phone. In this business you prepare yourself for everything. My call to Mario was a great experience for me. I found a young man who is very polite and one who really enjoys talking football. You can tell he has a passion for the game and respects his chance to be a key member of the Bearcats football team over the next two seasons.
While Mario will be judged on his playing ability as a Bearcat, I feel he will be very successful at everything he does while a member of the university and football team. While many Bearcat fans may be hearing about Mario for the first time, I can tell you I've see film of his play and feel the Bearcats are getting a great offensive line prospect that has a great upside. He's very flexible with great feet and hip movement. He shows he understands what it takes to play along the line with his smarts and ability to make line calls. He also is able to use his feet to slow down speed rushers off the edge and also get into second tier defensive players to open up holes. We'll check back with Mario in the coming weeks after he gets settled in at UC and during winter workouts to see how he's progressed.