"After speaking with my family and my coaches, and doing a lot of thinking about it, it just was clear that Ohio State was the best place for me," Sabino said of his college choice. "I had a great visit when I was up there and that really sealed the deal for me."
Sabino also stressed that choosing Ohio State became the right choice because of his respect for Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel.
"Jim Tressel is plainly one of the best coaches in America," Sabino stated. "His teams are always ranked very high, so he must be doing something right. I'm definitely excited to have the opportunity to play for him. He's also so much like a father figure to me, and a tremendous role model for me to pattern my life after. He carries himself with a lot of class and he is so well respected throughout the college coaching community. I took a lot of recruiting trips and I never heard anyone say anything bad about Jim Tressel."
Sabino, 6' 3" and 240 pounds, has no doubt that he will play linebacker at Ohio State, but he doesn't know which of the three spots he will end up playing.
"They're gonna try me at all three spots and we'll see which one is the best fit," he explained. "I'll be enrolling early, either in January or March, so I'll be going through spring practice and I'll just see what spot I'm more comfortable in."
Sabino's teammate and friend Travis Howard also committed to Ohio State in the past month. Sabino admitted it will be nice attending Ohio State with a familiar face by his side.
"It will be great having Travis at Ohio State with me," he said. "It didn't really play a part in my decision, but it sure feels good knowing we will be playing college football together. We took a lot of recruiting trips together, and we went through the recruiting process together, so that will be good that we're both going to be at Ohio State. Travis is a great player and I'm not sure a lot of people realize that."
It's seems unlikely that a great player from Florida would end up at Ohio State, but Sabino said Ohio State had been at the top of his list for quite a while.
"Going into my junior year I went to the Ohio State football camp and I just fell in love with the place," he admitted. "It was really the first college campus I'd ever seen and I never seemed to lose that feeling for Ohio State, even after I took a lot of other recruiting trips. Again, when I took my official visit a few weeks ago, the feeling became even stronger that this was the right place for me."
Fellow Floridian Mike Brewster has also issued a verbal commitment to Ohio State and Sabino admitted that Brewster was actively trying to recruit him to Ohio State.
"Ever since Brewster committed he's been on me to become a Buckeye," Sabino said with a laugh. "Our relationship was just a good friendship and he never really hounded me, but the fact that we knew each other and that he's such a great player, had a positive effect on me. It's nice to know that there will be two people that I already know with me at Ohio State."
Sabino isn't worried about moving so far away from home to continue his football career. There were offers from every program in the state of Florida, but Sabino insists he's ready to start his college career in Ohio.
"For me personally, it was nothing against any of the Florida schools, but I'm just ready to get away and make my mark in another part of the country," he explained. "My second choice was USC, so I knew I would be leaving the state of Florida all along. I just feel it's time for me to branch out and grow up away from home. I plan on studying sports management and I hope to become a sports agent some day. I might even get into coaching some day. I just know I want to be in the sports field my entire career."
Sabino hesitated when asked to compare his play to other linebackers, but named a few of the players he admires.
"That's a tough question to answer," he admitted. "I really like Lance Briggs a lot. Shawn Merriman and Brian Urlacher are two players I really look up to. I like players who can run to the football and make plays. That's the type of player I try to be. I really like James Laurinaitis and I think it will be great to learn from him next year. I think I have a nose for the football and that's my greatest strength on the field. Off the field, I think I'm a people person and I always try to be a leader. I think I can contribute to making my team a winning team. That is my greatest strength. I'm looking to get on the field as soon as possible, whatever my role is. The coaches told me that the best players get on the field and it's up to me to make myself one of the best. I think I'm up for that challenge."
Etienne Sabino exhibits a strong sense of maturity for someone so young. He just recently turned seventeen years old, but appears to be a person who is wiser than his years would indicate. He is humble and quite thankful to be in this position in his life.
"I know I didn't get here on my own," Sabino admitted. "There are so many people who have helped me and I have so many people I need to thank. First is my mom and all my family. My mom has been right there with me every step of the way and she's a great lady. When things get a little hectic in my life, I can always count on my mom to be standing right there by my side, helping me sort things out. She has raised me right and taught me how to be a good person. My coaches at Krop have been fantastic and so have my teammates. Our offensive line coach is Sonny Speilman and he taught me about what it means to be a Buckeye. His son [Chris] was a great player at Ohio State and he is the one who took me to the Ohio State football camp. I never saw Chris play, but I've heard so much about how great he was. I also want to thank my mentor, Brett Goetz. He's so important to my life and he helped me so much throughout the recruiting process. He's helped a lot of kids in Florida and he's a good man. I just want to thank everybody who's ever done anything for me to make me who I am today."
Brett Goetz is a successful businessman in Florida, but his most important contribution is helping young people learn to be solid citizens in the community. Both Travis Howard and Etienne Sabino refer to Goetz as their mentor, and it's easy to see the respect they have for Goetz. Goetz spoke about his relationship with Sabino.
"Etienne is just a kid who has a great head on his shoulders," Goetz began. "He's a great leader, besides being a great football player. He always does the right thing and he's a kid you never have to worry about getting in trouble.He is such a great competitor and he really wants to be successful in going forward in his life. He has a huge will to be the best player he can be. He grew up playing in my football league a few years ago, and he still likes to come back and help out with the younger kids. He first played football in our league and he always told me how badly he wanted to make it at the next level. He knew, even as a youngster, where he wanted to go and how hard he needed to work to get there. He's always been a kid who will do whatever it takes to be successful in everything he does."
Goetz helped revive the youth football program in Miami recently. The program has sent many players onto college and some, like Cincinnati star Chad Johnson, into the NFL.
"I'm a financial advisor actually,but I spend a lot of my time in football," Goetz said with a laugh. "I brought back the youth program on Miami Beach that was very successful in the past. After a ten year absence I brought this program back. I love football and I love helping kids, so bringing this program back to Miami Beach was a big thing. I met Etienne through our program. He weighed close to 175 pounds when I met him. He was such a big kid and so mature, that I was stunned to learn that he was only 13 years old at the time. I couldn't believe it. Even now I have to remind myself that he's still a very young man and he's just turned 17. Sometimes we get to talking and I'm speaking with him like he's a friend, even though I'm close to 20 years older than him. He's beyond mature for his age. He loves volunteering and giving back to our program, and it's nice to see that. He is just one of the nicest, well mannered kids I've ever met."
Goetz also spoke highly of Sabino's mother, Agatha Rijo, and the great home she has provided for Etienne and his younger brother. He felt Sabino's stable home life was a great source of help throughout the recruiting journey.
"He has a great home life and that's all because of his mother," Goetz said. "He lives with his mom and his brother, but doesn't have a relationship with his father. His mom is a great woman, make no mistake about it. She is so excited about Ohio State. When they came back from the visit she told me how she was hoping Etienne would choose Ohio State, but she never pushed him at all about it. Etienne and I took a lot of college trips also, and I can't tell you proud I am of the way he handled the entire recruiting process. He went to every school and evaluated every situation. He was such a man about the whole process, even calling all the other coaches after he had decided on Ohio State. He told me the hardest part of the process was having to call USC and tell them he was going to Ohio State. He was really torn between the two schools, but he followed his heart toward Ohio State. Personally, I felt that Ohio State was the best place for Etienne, and we took a lot of trips, but I let him make his decision without me influencing him."
If it sounds like Goetz is a life-long Buckeye fan, nothing could be further from the truth. Goetz admitted he is becoming quite an admirer of Ohio State after seeing how they recruited Sabino.
"Look I'm from the University of Florida, so I could have easily pushed him toward the Gators," Goetz said laughingly. "I even grew up a Miami Hurricane fan, so I could have pushed him in that direction. As I really looked at it objectively, it became very clear that Ohio State was the best place for Howard and Sabino. A funny story is that one of my really good friends, Demond Tidwell, played for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State. Demond and I work together and we're good friends who always talk football every day. Demond has always told me about Jim Tressel being the greatest person in his life, and how much of a help Tressel is to him even today. He said Jim Tressel is still a father figure to him. When Etienne and I talked about Ohio State, I always told him that the one thing he would be getting at Ohio State was a head coach who was a great guy and someone who will make a man out of Etienne. I think that meant a great deal to him. Demond has worked with Etienne on his footwork and they get along great, so that helped Ohio State land him also."
Even Brett Goetz spoke about the influence Mike Brewster is having on the 2008 Ohio State recruiting class. It seems Brewster has a positive impact on everyone he meets.
"Man, that Brewster is something," Goetz said admiringly. "We met Mike Brewster up at Florida on a recruiting trip and all Brewster talked about was Ohio State. We had lunch with Brewster and his family and I could tell how special Brewster is. A lot of the other Ohio State recruits have reached out to Etienne as well. These are the guys that are going to be in the trenches with Sabino and he didn't find that at USC. No recruits at any other school calls people like Brewster does. He is amazing, believe me. I told Etienne that Brewster is the kind of guy you want to go into battle with. Brewster will be Etienne's friend the rest of his life and that's very important to him. I don't know how much credit Brewster deserves for Etienne's final decision, but it definitely helped him."
Brett Goetz is quickly becoming a Buckeye voice in South Beach. This former Gator is sounding more like a Buckeye every day, and he admits having Howard and Sabino at Ohio State will change who he roots for.
"Sabino and Howard came to my house last week, because I have the Big-10 Network, to watch the Buckeyes," he said. "Etienne loves watching James Laurinaitis and is looking forward to learning from him. I think we're going to start pushing the Buckeyes down here now because of these guys going to Ohio State. Etienne and Travis want me to help them recruit some of the best players in Florida to Ohio State. They want to go hard after the best players down here. I know they're after Brandon Harris for sure. We have a lot of great juniors in Miami that are pumped about Ohio State because of Etienne and Travis. Anthony Fletcher will be the big-time linebacker down here next year, and he told me "wherever those two guys go, I'm going with them." It might get pretty exciting for Ohio State's Florida recruiting in the next few years because of Etienne and Travis."
With three of the top players in Florida headed to Ohio State, it appears that Jim Tressel is expanding his recruiting base all the way to the Gulf Of Mexico. Etienne Sabino, along with Mike Brewster and Travis Howard, just might be able to have the folks in Florida singing the "Buckeye Battle Cry" before too long. One thing is clear, though, and that is adding quality human beings like Etienne Sabino can only make the Ohio State football program stronger, on and off the field. Joinus time for another edition of the "Making of the Brew Crew."