- Josh Moyer, Penn State/Big Ten reporter
Greg Miclisse's mother always believed her son had a future in football. "One day," she'd tell him, "you'll be the first overall pick of the Miami Dolphins."
Miclisse, who preferred the hardwood to turf, wasn't so sure. The Florida native just shrugged off his mother's words as if she ordered him to clean his room. He was a shooting guard, not a linebacker, he'd tell her. But after years of persistence, he finally relented and tried out as a freshman.
"At first I was like, 'Get out of here, I'm a basketball player,' " the 2014 prospect out of Palm Bay (Fla.) Bayside said with a laugh.
He'd throw on his shoulder pads and stand near the sideline, telling anyone who listened, "Man, this is boring." But, as the season progressed and he saw more time on varsity, his attitude began to shift.
Miclisse had a nose for the ball. And when the linebacker broke a school record by registering seven sacks in a single game -- yes, as a freshman -- he stopped shaking his head when his mother casually mentioned the NFL. When the postseason arrived, and he stared into a crowd of painted-up faces, he knew "boring" was no longer the right term to describe the sport.
He was a football player now, and he knew he had a future there.
"My whole family, they've been telling me since Day 1 that I'm a football player," he said. "And I kept telling them basketball's my thing. But now football definitely is. I just love it; I thank my mom all the time and tell her I love her."
Miclisse has been Bayside's starting linebacker since his sophomore season, and his blend of size and speed has attracted numerous colleges such as West Virginia, Notre Dame, Houston, Clemson and Florida.
And, a few days ago, Penn State sent Miclisse a Facebook message to let him know just how impressed the staff was with his film.
"They were like, 'We're going to come see you soon,' " Miclisse added. "And that's when I was just like 'wow.' "
Miclisse's instinctual playing style and ability to learn quickly has forced staffs like Penn State to evaluate him early. Miclisse recalled one Sunday afternoon when he sat down to watch the Atlanta Falcons. He looked closely at defensive end John Abraham, following him nearly every play, and tried to mimic his moves around the edge.
Come gametime, Miclisse attempted to implement those same techniques he watched on TV.
"That one game, I just started doing those moves and breaking free from the O-linemen and sacking the quarterback,"Miclisse said, referring to his seven-sack performance. "Football's just like the perfect thing for me."
The 6-foot-1, 233-pound junior said he's open to schools, and he tweeted PSU commit Christian Hackenberg to let him know he sees Penn State in his top 5 one day. He said he doesn't care about bowl games or prestige; he just wants to play early and for a team with a strong staff that feels like family.
He might live more than 1,000 miles from Happy Valley, but he still carries a strong opinion of the school known as Linebacker U.
"Penn State, I like that school. I like a lot of things about Penn State," Miclisse said. "Joe Paterno is one of the greatest coaches that ever coached college football, and people are talking about him in a negative way -- but I don't really care about that.
"I just love Joe Paterno, and Bill O'Brien stepped in from the New England Patriots, and I feel like he's doing a great job and keeping people together."
Three years ago, Miclisse never thought he'd be chatting with ESPN's No.1-rated quarterback or reflecting on his chances to one day start for the Penn State football team. He thought he'd focus on basketball, maybe guide his high school team to some postseason victories and move on to college.
He never thought he'd pick up a free education thanks to football -- so he tells his parents, nearly every day, he couldn't be happier he finally listened to them.
"Oh yeah, I'm thinking they saved me," he said. "That picked me up and saved me. If I didn't listen to them and kept playing basketball, I wouldn't have gotten as much attention. And now I just love football."
Greg Miclisse's mother always believed her son had a future in football. "One day," she'd tell him, "you'll be the first overall pick of the Miami Dolphins.