It also explains the exceptional foot speed of Rutgers' latest commitment.
Longa, who pledged to Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano late Wednesday afternoon, was recruited to play weakside linebacker at Rutgers, and they are getting a very good athlete.
"You give the kid a soccer ball, he'll show you some amazing tricks that he can do," said Ciappina, who Saddle Brook High's head coach. "When he was in the middle school, I noticed how athletic he was. I was like, ‘Wow, this kid is unbelievable. I have to get him out to play football.' His footwork is great."
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Longa, who wore a Rutgers shirt to school, made the decision to commit when he woke up this morning. He told the Ciappina during a 7:20 a.m. meeting.
"He's a great kid, a very coachable kid," Ciappina said. "He's got the whole package. He does everything in his training to revolve around football. He's football 24/7, 365 days a year. He'll do anything to get better.
"Even when he came out as a freshman, he didn't know anything about the game but he loved it. He wanted to do things throughout the offseason to make himself better. He's got the ability, the size and a great head on his shoulders. He's a great kid, respects his teachers, great sportsmanship."
Rutgers recruited Longa to play weakside linebacker, the spot he plays for the Falcons.
"He's explosive, he's aggressive and he loves to hit," Ciapinna said. "He'd be perfect right there. We play him there, and he's amazing. He does great things for us.
"We use him when we want to get pressure on the quarterback, we'll fire him in there with the blitz on. He's very hard to block. When he's coming in full speed, there's quite a few people that won't get a block on him, and we'll use him in coverage as well."
One of the comparisons made with Longa is with former Saddle Brook standout Steve Beauharnais.
Ciappina was an assistant when Beauharnais, who will be a junior at Rutgers in 2011, played for the Falcons, and there are comparisons between the two.
"They're both very physical, they're both very aggressive and downhill players," Ciapinna said. "I think Steve Longa has better footwork, and I think he's more explosive than Steve Beauharnais was. I'm not talking down about Beauharnais at all because he was amazing with what he did, but Steve Longa is very new to the game.
"He's only played three years. Steve Beauharnais played his entire life. For Steve Longa to pick it up so quickly, and to do so much and progress so much, I think it's amazing. Give him time and I think he's going to be such a great player."