Preseason All C-USA TE, # 82 Stephen Cucci

"We have a lot of great players on both sides of the ball and some young guys that are very talented and will make us better. Everyone on our team is a key player in my book, we all make each other better. Nothing is accomplished by an individual, we all rely on each other." - Stephen Cucci

RS - Stephen, tell us where you are from and why you decided to attend the University of Houston.
I was born and raised in Bradenton, Florida, which is on the west coast about an hour south of Tampa. Coach Helton signed two guys from my high school the previous year and the really liked it. I took a visit the next fall and liked what I saw. I also had the opportunity to play as a true freshman.

RS - What other schools recruited you out of high school?
Southeast High School in Florida is a state powerhouse and we receive a lot of pressure from college scouts nationwide. Some of the schools that recruited me very heavy were Miami, Florida, Louisville, UCF, USF, Wake Forrest, South Carolina and Marshall.

RS - What are you currently majoring in and tell us about your plans following school?
I am majoring in Sports Administration and currently six hrs away from graduating. After school I would love to pursue a professional career. If that doesn't work out I would love to coach.

RS – Now, let's talk some Cougar Football! Being that you are the final player from the Helton era, how difficult has it been playing for three different coaching regimes and do you feel you might have also benefited from the different experiences?
It is tough adjusting to the three different coaches and their styles. I have been in a different offensive scheme every year I lettered, which is tough because you don't get a complete understanding for the offense until the season starts. That part is very tough, but I think it is a great asset to a player in the long run because you learn many different things from each coach and their philosophy.

RS - Please explain the differences in philosophies on and/or off the field from the Helton to Dimel to Art Briles' eras.
I here bad things about Helton from people that have been around UH for a while, but I really liked coach Helton and his "Tough Guy" coaching. Please don't take this the wrong way and take nothing from Dimel. but I didn't agree with his coaching or his off the field policies. He took a lot of the fun out of the game. Coach Briles is the man both on the field and off. He is very well respected by everyone involved with UH athletics and I take my hat off to everything he has done here.

RS - A lot has been made of the training program and the apparent improvements in the strength and conditioning of our current players, has this staff brought more intensity and a workman like environment to the program than the previous ones?
Coach Briles has brought intensity and enthusiasm into everything we do whether its practice, workout or meetings. Everyone is excited to work and eager to improve. And it's starting to show.

RS - How difficult was it for you sit out all last season after really coming on during your jr. year and what did it mean to you to be able to get the 6th year of eligibility granted?
It was very tough sitting out last season especially since we went to Hawaii, but there was nothing I could do but wait for the NCAA to review my appeal for a sixth year and I was fortunate enough to get it.

RS - As difficult as it might have been for you to sit out all last season, do you feel it has been beneficial for you and the team for you to have had the opportunity to sit back and learn the new system for a year?
Yes, I think it was very beneficial for me to sit out last year and get a better grasp of coach Briles' offense. I am sure the team would have liked me to participate but we had two very good tight ends that in my opinion did a wonderful job last year.

RS - How far along as a player both mentally and physically would you say you are now compared with last year heading into the fall practices?
In my opinion, you can only improve. I fell very confident this year both physically and mentally.

RS - What will you bring to the offense from both a receiving and blocking perspective that may or may not have been missing last season?
I hate these types of questions where I have to talk about what "I" can do. I just play hard and try to make plays.

RS - During the off-season we have had a number of players switch positions, two of which are John McGilvray from OT to TE and Blade Bassler from QB to TE/Big Slot. Explain how you foresee these players fitting into the offensive schemes and/or complimenting your abilities?
Two totally different types of players, but both very good at what they do. It can only help us.

RS - As a team what do you expect to accomplish this season, as your last season as a Houston Cougar?
If you don't expect to win at everything you do you shouldn't and will not play for Coach Briles and the University of Houston.

RS - Which players do you see as being the leaders on the team, for either side of the ball?
We have a lot of great players on both sides of the ball and some young guys that are very talented and will make us better. Everyone on our team is a key player in my book, we all make each other better. Nothing is accomplished by an individual, we all rely on each other

RS - Which red-shirted or incoming players do you expect to contribute or really stand out this season?
Rocky Schwartz, Donnie Avery, Ryan Gilbert, Kendal Briles are all very impressive. We also have some highly talented freshmen that will have a shot at some playing time this year.

RS - It has been said that you knew Rocky Schwartz from your high school playing days in Florida, what are you connections with him and is this someone you notified the coaches they should take a look at?
I have known Rocky since he was about nine or 10. He played Little League baseball with my brother. They went to Williamsport and played in the Little League World Series. Rocky attended the new high school they built in Bradenton, but he was coached by all of my coaches as the staff took over out there. I recommended Rocky to the staff and brought his highlight film up here for the coaches and the rest is history.

RS - There has been a lot of discussion about opening up the season against rice and hosting Miami at Reliant Stadium, what are your thoughts on playing at Reliant?
When the whistle blows and the game starts it doesn't matter where you play.

RS - Do you ever read CoogFans and if so, what do you think of it as a source of fan interaction/information?
I try to stay away from any kind of media. I like to keep to myself and worry about what we as a team need to do to make us better.

RS - Are there any last words you would like to say to all the Cougar fans out there?
Thank you for all of the support and I can't wait for the season to start.

Thanks so much Stephen for taking time to conduct this interview with me.


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