That school was Navy
, which beat out the Wofford, Georgetown
, and The Citadel (led by a late push from current quarterbacks coach and former Midshipmen Craig Candeto) to secure the future services of the 5-foot-10, 180-pounds quarterback from Plant City, Florida.
Reflecting after a busy Signing Day press conference at his high school – the alma mater of former Army signal caller Chip Bowden
– Fabrizio said that the Navy ‘Brotherhood' and the chance to play in the Big East helped him choose Navy over the Citadel.
"It feels really good to be a Midshipman," said Fabrizio, who last season led Durant to its first district title since 2003.
"All the recruits I was up on my visit with, we all became pretty good friends really fast. It was definitely the feeling of the ‘Brotherhood.' That was a key for me" he added.
Signing Day concluded an unlikely year for Fabrizio, who for the first three years of his prep career went largely unnoticed by even smaller in-state college programs. A backup and utility player until his senior season, Fabrizio came out of nowhere in 2011 to direct Durant's triple option offense to record heights on both the ground and through the air.
"We had a three year starter in front of him, but he just came out here his senior year and had 29 touchdowns and was a big player for us and an integral part of our offense," Gottman said.
Gottman acknowledged Fabrizio's size likely scared many schools away even in the midst of Durant's 2011 offensive explosion, but said Fabrizio has the arm strength and understanding of the passing game in the option to play at the next level.
"I think he has the ability to really excel in that area," said Gottman, who said that his flexbone-oriented offense threw, on average, "12 to 13 times a game."
"He threw some really nice balls where he got it in there. He just has the ability to get the ball where it needs to be," Gottman added.
While he hit nine touchdowns through the air in 2011, Fabrizio's real strength comes in his ability to read defenses out of the flexbone, and his lightning fast speed and change-of-direction ability as a runner. Comparing Fabrizio to former Durant and Army quarterback Chip Bowden, Gottman said the former's athleticism is unquestionably better.
"Chip was a very analytical guy and very smart," Gottman began. "He could read it and was fundamentally sound, and Nick's very similar to that. But the difference is Chip was a 4.7 guy and Nick's a 4.5 guy, and when Nick got loose, he never got caught."
"Once he got loose he'd have runs of 50, 60, 70 yards. He just got really fast when other people were chasing him," added Durant's headman.
Fabrizio isn't all about speed though. With uncanny upper body strength strength and surprising arm strength, he likes to emulate the style of play displayed by former Navy great Ricky Dobbs
"I see myself sort of like a Ricky Dobbs because I can throw and run at the same time. That's who coach Jasper always compared me to," Fabrizio said.
At 5-foot-10 and running a sub 4.5 40-yard dash, Fabrizio not only has the smarts and toughness to be an option quarterback, but he has the versatility and athleticism to transition into an A-back role at Navy should the need arise. Gottman admitted to underutilizing Fabrizio as a runner at Durant, and has no doubt the Navy-bound recruit would make an electrifying slotback.
"When we saw what he could do with the football we just said, ‘we've got to get this kid the ball more.' He had some big plays for us his junior year and we really should have used him more. We didn't – and that was a mistake on our part – but I think he can make that transition."
For his part, Fabrizio welcomes to opportunity to contribute in any way possible, but is confident that his knowledge of the option, toughness as a runner, and arm strength will convince the Navy coaches to keep him at quarterback.
"I can see myself playing anywhere I need to, but I really want to stay at quarterback. It's where I'd love to be at," Fabrizio said.
"I ran a lot of it in high school and it's pretty much he same thing," he added. "I've just got to learn the new terminology and keep working and hopefully get a good chance."
Fabrizio said he plans to use a year at the Naval Academy Prep School to not only shore up his academic skills, but to become more familiar with the Navy offense and prepare his body for the life of a Division I quarterback.
"I think it will be a great year for me to go to NAPS. I'll get bigger, stronger, and faster, and get my grades to where they need to be for me to maintain them there at the Academy."
Will Fabrizio be able to dish out all that academy and Division I football life have to offer? If his leadership and resilience at Durant is any indicator, he should pass with flying colors.
"We're a pretty tough program here," Gottman explained. "Our philosophy is we push our kids to their limits with our offseason strength and conditioning program. We bust their asses, and (Nick) had a great offseason last year and just kept getting faster and faster. The kid has just never stopped."
"He has always wanted to be number one; in any race, any drill, anything he did. He's a leader and wants to do well."
Nick Fabrizio wasn't high on many schools' recruiting boards coming out of his senior season, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't have been. After three years of patiently waiting his turn, the Floridian made his presence felt in a big way for Durant (Fl) in 2011. And while the traditional Florida powerhouses weren't watching, one school was.