Family Tree

West Virginia is losing All-American Ryan Stanchek to graduation this year, but a relative of the hard-nosed Ohioan could follow in his footsteps at WVU.

"I've been to West Virginia a couple of times, and Ryan has shown me around," said Zach Abbatiello, who is currently a junior at LaSalle High School in Cincinnati. "I came for the South Florida game, and that was my first time there as an unofficial visitor. The atmosphere was great due to it being senior night, but the best thing I liked about it was the emphasis on family. Everyone was very welcoming. I was excited to be there and see what it was like on game day."

Abbatiello is Stanchek's cousin (his mother and Ryan's mother are sisters), so he has been around Stanchek enough to get a glimpse of what the recruiting process and college life are like.

"Ryan gave me some examples on recruiting and what to look for, and I was able to use those and take everything in," he said of his unofficial visit. "I got to see a lot. One thing that impressed me was how everyone on the team was together. It was cool to see the introductions and how everyone gathered around the seniors and supported them. They made it into a special night for them."

Abbatiello isn't getting interest just because his cousin is an All-American, however. An aggressive defender who thrives on contact, he was a double duty player during his junior year.

"I was playing free safety at the start of the season, then I got put in at running back because we needed some players there. I started both ways, and I also ran back punts. I liked doing all of that, but I think free safety is my position. I play aggressive. I like contact, and I like playing with power. I think safety is probably the position I will end up playing in college. I just like hitting people.

Abbatiello's LaSalle squad battled to a 4-6 finish this year. The Lancers faced depth issues after losing a number of players off last year's team to Division I colleges.

"We were small, but we competed hard with everyone," Abbatiello reported. "We played in Texas Stadium in Dallas against Cedar Hill, and played several Ohio playoff teams, including the one that won the state championship."

Abbatiello did well for the Lancers, earning second-team all-league honors as a junior while recovering five fumbles and intercepting a pair of passes. The 5-11 ½, 190-pounder also forced three fumbles during the 2008 season.

Abbatiello has visited Louisville and Cincinnati, and is following his cousin's best advice in the recruiting process.

"He's talked to me about it some, and he told me to see as many schools as I can. Then you can compare them and figure out what is best and how they fit. I've given my highlight tape to WVU, and I will definitely go see as many different schools as I can.

An accomplished athlete who has also played baseball and basketball in high school, Abbatiello might forego other sports to concentrate on lifting and conditioning for his senior football season. While he has a good outlook and plan for dealing with the recruiting process, he knows that every bit of preparation that he can complete for his senior year could have a big effect on his future – not unlike that of his cousin.

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