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Proia walks on to USF football team

August 22, 2009

Mariner High graduate Renato Proia won't be contributing this season to the University of South Florida soccer team. Instead, the freshman will suit up and wear No. 48 for the Bulls on the football field.

Proia, who played football and was a standout goalkeeper in soccer at Mariner, worked out for USF coach Jim Leavitt last week and impressed the coach enough to join the Bulls as a walk-on. He will compete for kickoff duties, Mariner coach Chad O'Brien said.

O'Brien said USF wanted Proia to join the football team last spring as a preferred walk-on, but Proia, a standout goalkeeper, decided to join the soccer program as a preferred walk-on. He recorded 16 shutouts in his soccer career with the Tritons.

The USF football program was in search of kicking help heading into the season after returning kicker Maikon Bonani was injured in a fall while working on a ride at Busch Gardens in July.

Proia was one of several players that worked out for the football team, before landing a spot on the roster.

"Joe Tresey (USF defensive coordinator) called me and said, 'Do you still have that kicker available?,'" O'Brien said. "I said, 'He's on your campus playing soccer right now.' They asked him to try out. He made 80 percent of the field goals and kicked it down to the 2 (on kickoffs). Leavitt brought him over and once the coach saw him kick it was a done deal."

Proia, who also excelled in the classroom at Mariner, went to USF as a Bright Futures scholar. He had 28 kickoffs for touchbacks as senior and also played offensive guard and tight end on the football team.

"Renato has always done things right," O'Brien said. "He was a captain. He played guard and never complained. We moved him to tight end and he never complained. He's always done things right and that's why he's got the opportunity he has."



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