Miami's Anthony Chickillo living the dream

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Saint Augustine is a Catholic student center and church at the University of Miami where defensive end Anthony Chickillo’s parents were married when they were 19. Chickillo’s mother, Joan, worked in the Hecht Athletic Center, where Anthony now comes and goes as he pleases as a star defensive end for the Canes.

Anthony's father, Tony, and his grandfather, the late Nick Chickillo, both played for the Hurricanes, and almost every day he passes the dorms they lived in. Chickillo’s Miami roots don’t end there. Even his maternal grandfather played golf at Miami. The family room at their home in Tampa, Fla., is decorated with Miami’s history.

“I always knew I was going to come here,” Chickillo said. “It didn’t matter who was going to be the coach here. I got recruited by three different defensive coordinators, three different D-line coaches, two different head coaches. This was where I wanted to be. I truly am living my dream every day.”

Which is why it’s so important to him that Miami’s defense improve dramatically in 2013.

Last year, the Canes fell far from their rich history and tradition of putting pressure on quarterbacks, as Miami finished with just 13 sacks. As the school’s first third-generation Hurricane, Chickillo was all-too familiar with Miami’s reputation for its hard-hitting defensive lines.

“You’ve got to take pride in it,” he said. “We’ve just got to be better and we will be.”

And Chickillo, now a junior, said he plans on doing whatever he can to help the defense do that.

From the moment he stepped on campus, expectations have been high for Chickillo to be an immediate contributor. He was rated a four-star defensive end by ESPN.com and had offers from more than 50 schools as an Under Armour All-American. As a true freshman, Chickillo played in all 12 games and started the last nine. He finished third in the voting for the 2011 ACC defensive rookie of the year and finished tied for the team lead with five sacks.

Last year, he started all 12 games -- one of only three players on defense to do that. He finished eighth on the team with 45 tackles and third with 6.5 tackles for loss for a team-high minus-31 yards. He also led the team with 4.0 sacks for 24 yards lost.

Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said there was a lot of pressure put on Chickillo as a true freshman because he was such a highly touted recruit, but that he has evolved into a player capable of shouldering those expectations.

“Obviously we want to get pressure on the quarterback as a team, [but] we didn’t get enough sacks,” D’Onofrio said. “I don’t think that falls directly on him, nor should he feel that way. Sacks isn’t a defining stat for how good of a player you are. He’s been a guy who’s gotten better each year. He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He finished his freshman year at 238 pounds. I think today he weighed about 267. There’s a maturity there. He’ll continue to improve because he wants to. He’s got a really good work ethic, a high motor. He’ll continue to be a really good player for us.”

After all, it’s in his blood.