Home Ground

Although he's an Ohio native, Mike Lorello couldn't have made a better choice with his NFL free agent signing in a neighboring state.

"My whole family is excited," said WVU's soon-to-graduate defensive back, who signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday. "A lot of them are from Steubenville, and I don't think I have one relative that isn't a Steelers fan. I've tried to explain to them I haven't made the team yet, but that hasn't had much effect."

It's not, of course, as if Lorello wouldn't have had support from his family if he had gone to another team. His father traveled to every game of Mike's career, and his mother and sister also provided a great deal of support. However, with Lorello's first shot at the NFL occurring very close to both his home and WVU, it probably couldn't have worked out much better for the hard-hitting safety.

"Early on, I knew Pittsburgh had some interest. They were at West Virginia's Pro Day, and I spoke with their scout," Lorello recalled. "However, as the draft approached, I talked to them less and less. So, it was sort of a surprise when they called me. As soon as the draft was over they called and asked me if I would be interested in signing with them.

"I did get calls from three other teams, but Pittsburgh was the first offer. It also turned out to be the best one for me," he continued. "I looked at their situation, and they seem to be a little bit thin at safety, and it's close to my home. I also like the way they run their free agent program – everything about it looks good to me. I just felt like the opportunity there was better than anywhere else."

During one of his follow up conversations with the Steelers, Lorello was told they had 15 free agents on their Super Bowl roster. That indicated to the Ohio native a real opportunity to demonstrate his skills and make an impression – much as the walk-on program at West Virginia has provided some of his teammates in the past.

Like everyone else that was drafted or recently signed, Lorello will first head out to a three-day mini-camp aimed at getting newcomers acclimated to life in the NFL.

"I report on May 12th, and then camp runs from the 13th through the 15th," Lorello said. "They didn't say much about the camp yet, just that they will bring me in and try to teach me the system. Honestly, it's all new to me. I'm getting some information, but it's coming in slowly. I talked with Pittsburgh again on Monday, and they said they will be calling me back to tell me what to bring and some more about the camp."

Given his diligent nature, Lorello won't just sit back and wait to see what camp holds. He plans to quiz some of his former teammates, including Rasheed Marshall, Quincy Wilson, and Grant Wiley, about what to expect.

"I already talk to Grant a lot, so I'm sure I'll be talking with him about it," Lorello said. "I haven't spoken to any of them yet, but I'm looking forward to getting their input."

When Lorello arrives at his first NFL camp, he'll be competing with two other safeties for attention, and also could end up butting heads with veteran Mike Logan, another WVU alumnus who was recently re-signed by the Steelers. Lorello has never met Logan, who has fashioned a very good NFL career after his star turn at West Virginia, and also doesn't know much about the other safeties on the roster.

"I looked at the depth chart, but I don't know much about the other new guys that signed," Lorello explained. I know it will be excellent competition, and I'm just planning on going in and doing my best."

Lorello is experiencing the final phase in the progression of an athlete – jumping from the college to the pro ranks – and sees some parallels to the time, four years ago, when he left Ohio to come to WVU.

"It's similar in the fact that when I came to college, I didn't know what to expect," Lorello explained. "Just like when I came to WVU, this will be a learning experience. I do hope to learn faster than [the other newcomers], so that maybe I can have an edge there. I'm just going into it with an open mind and do everything I can to make the team."

Before he departs for Pennsylvania, however, Lorello has one big task to complete at West Virginia. It's finals week on campus, and he doesn't plan to waste his chance to finish his work and get his degree.

"It really hasn't hit me yet that I'm moving on, because I'm still taking finals," said Lorello, who has been juggling studying with his potential NFL career over the past few days. "I still have three finals to take, including Finance. I was telling my parents that I don't care about finals now, that I want to concentrate on football, but I will finish up. I have done well so far, and I don't want to throw that away."

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