2015 DE Joe Gaziano talks NU interest

In February, Joe Gaziano became one of Northwestern's top defensive end priorities. Now, he's nearing his ideal commitment date, with the Wildcats very much in the picture. Find out more inside.

In February, Joe Gaziano told Scout.com that he wasn't an "expert" on Northwestern. After receiving an early offer from the Wildcats, Gaziano planned a visit to spring practice—during which he could learn about the program.

Well, it worked. The Westwood (Mass.) Xaverian Brothers defensive end is strongly considering NU as his ideal commitment time nears. Gaziano plans to give his pledge in May, with Rutgers and Boston College the other key players in his recruitment.

"They set themselves apart because of what Coach Fitz is preaching and what happens after football," Gaziano told PurpleWildcats.com on Saturday. "He emphasizes being together throughout the process."

It began with a visit from NU defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. The in-person trip usually signifies strong interest from the coaching staff. From there, northeast recruiting specialist Bob Heffner did his thing.

"I built a relationship with Coach Heffner just over the phone and messaging and so forth," he said. "He was telling me about how they had interest in my skills as a pass rusher.

"He's a great guy in general. He's straightforward with all of the guys. He really pushes you to come to see the campus with Coach Fitz."

NU views Gaziano as a strong-side defensive end. The Wildcats need to replenish their defensive line for the 2015 class. They've offered a handful of D-ends already, but Gaziano was among the earliest priorities.

"They offered me pretty early," he said. "From right then, I could tell that they wanted me as a prospect. They're really interested in me."

The visit, though, cemented his interest. He watched the first spring session of the year, and praised the team's work ethic.

"They feed off of each other's energy," he said. "The competition drives them to be together."

The "together" comment stood out, and reflected Saturday's events. Tommy Vitale committed to Northwestern, making the Vitales the fifth pair of siblings on NU's roster. Gaziano appreciated the "family unit" that Fitzgerald discussed.

Without openly naming a favorite, Gaziano said he needed to consider an early pledge: If other defensive ends made the move to commit, his spot at a school could disappear.

Ultimately, Gaziano provided one of the best visit stories this year. The trip could even trigger another commitment—and soon.

"I saw a lot on my visit," he said. "I got to see them practice, got to see the new plans for all of the new facilities—which was very insightful. I'd have no problem with one more visit."

Hopefully for NU, that won't be necessary.

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