The Hurricanes didn’t have to take Chickillo. The son of Tony Chickillo and grandson of Nick Chickillo, a pair of former Miami standouts, earned his spot at Miami all on his own as a standout high school defensive lineman.
During his senior season at Tampa’s Braulio Alonso High School, Chickillo recorded an astounding 140 tackles and 18 sacks with two interceptions. He would go on to be named the MVP of the Under Armour All-America Game and become the third generation of Chickillos to play for the Hurricanes.
But that’s not enough for Anthony Chickillo. Up next is becoming the third generation of Chickillos to play in the NFL. He took the first step toward that goal earlier this year when he was selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, Chickillo (6-3, 267) is again following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather once again, almost literally.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s gone from one storied program at Miami to another with the Steelers.
“Obviously, there are a lot of similarities,” Chickillo said. “In Miami, you see the trophies. Here, it’s the same thing. This place is known for having great defenses. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Tony Chickillo was a fifth-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 1983, spending time with the Bucs, Chargers and Jets before finishing his football career in the Arena Football League. Nick Chickillo played one season with the Chicago Cardinals in 1953 before trying to catch on with the Steelers.
Nick was injured early into his attempt with the Steelers, so rather than go back to Scranton and work in the coal mines where he had grown up, he moved his family back to Miami.
Anthony Chickillo grew up in Tampa, knowing that his father and grandfather both had tasted life in the NFL.
“I’d say the expectations, me coming from a football family, have helped me,” Chickillo said. “Everything in my family revolves around football. We just love the game. We love watching it. I think it’s been a benefit for me.”
Now the question is whether Chickillo can be what the Steelers want – an outside linebacker.
Chickillo started 43 games at Miami, recording 170 career tackles and 15.5 sacks. But all of those starts came at defensive end, even in the 3-4 alignment.
The Steelers are hopeful the athleticism he showed at the NFL combine, where he was among the top performers among defensive ends in both the three-cone and 20-yard shuttle, will translate into an easy transition to outside linebacker.
After spending time at the position during OTAs and mini-camp learning from outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, Chickillo thinks he’s ready to hit the ground running when the Steelers open training camp in July.
“I feel like I have the athleticism and the tools to do it. I just haven’t played outside linebacker,” Chickillo said. “It’s just learning and playing a new position. I’ve got to learn the defense. I’m just working really hard with the veterans and taking the coaching from Coach Porter and just trying to suck all the knowledge I can.”
He likes what he’s seen so far.
“You kind of have more vision when you’re standing up,” Chickillo said. “When you’re down, you’re keying on something on every play. Standing up, you can read better and react. It’s a matter of learning your assignments and what you’re supposed to do. Once you get that down, you’re just out there playing.”
Chickillo has something of a logjam ahead of him with Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Arthur Moats and first-round draft pick Bud Dupree all but guaranteed of having spots on the Steelers’ roster this season. But Chickillo’s not somebody who should be overlooked as camp fodder.
“I just want a chance to play, I don’t care where it’s at,” Chickillo said. “I’ll do anything they need me to do. I’ll play anywhere. This is what I’ve dreamed of my entire life.”
(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)