It's not every day a Hernando County resident departs his native soil and relocates some 17½ hours and 1,153 miles north to Chicago - to live within walking distance of additional family and friends.
But that's exactly the case with recent Nature Coast graduate Anthony Michael Siciliano.
Siciliano, 17, recently signed with the loaded Division III Concordia University Chicago gridiron program.
Concordia is a private Lutheran liberal arts school located in a suburb of Chicago, River Forest.
In January, Randy Awrey was tabbed as the school's 17th head coach.
The upcoming season will be Awrey's 19th as a head coach. He'll enter with a career 124-68-1 won-lost-tied slate.
Awrey inherits a program that finished the 2012 campaign at 10-1. The Cougars ranked 21st in the final American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll and 26th on the D3football.com poll.
Concordia already has some local flavor with former Central High standout and current wide receiver Mike Bailey on the roster.
Bailey, an exercise science major, snared 12 receptions in 11 games last fall, averaging over 17 yards per catch.
The 6-foot, 286-pound Siciliano primarily operated along the Shark O-line.
According to Siciliano, he whittled his final choice of college to Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C, Webber International University in Babson Park, Adrian College in Michigan and Concordia-Chicago.
His final choice was simple.
"Most of my family either lives here in Spring Hill or in Chicago. I only visited one school - Concordia," said Siciliano. "When I was there, their coaching staff reminded me of ours. I saw their conference championship rings - they were sweet. Their team motto is 'family' - just like us.
"The guys on the team were real cool," recalled Siciliano. "Their O-line coach told it to me straight. He said, 'If you make it past the first year, you'll probably finish. The toughest year is the first one away from your family.
"No positions are promised, you have to work hard for your shot.'"
???Siciliano, the older of two brothers, resides with his mother Jeanne and stepfather Umberto in Spring Hill.
Siciliano has played football for 11 years. He remembers initially playing for the Screaming Eagles at Veterans Memorial Park, alternating between the offensive and defensive lines for five years.
Even when his family relocated to Indian Rocks in Pinellas County, he played football at the rec level.
Shortly after his family moved back to Hernando County, Siciliano again played along the O-line and D-line for three seasons at the middle school level for the Powell Panthers.
After matriculating to NCT, he started both ways for the junior varsity Sharks as a freshman.
He was promoted to varsity following the junior varsity campaign as a sophomore.
He concluded his prep career as a two-year starter for the Sharks under skipper Charles Liggett.
This past winter, Siciliano followed Coach Mike Lastra's advice and went out for the wrestling team.
Despite being a mat novice, Siciliano quickly adapted to his new environment and teammates.
Siciliano stunned heavily favored Hernando senior Canaan Swackard at 285 pounds with a 2:13 pin to capture the first-place blue ribbon in the Class 2A, District 7 Tournament.
Before a packed crowd at Springstead, Siciliano walked away with one of the school-record four district titles in the Sharks' fine second-place showing.
A week later in regionals, Siciliano's magic run barely ended. He finished 3-2 with three pins - concluding one victory shy of qualifying for the 49th annual FHSAA Finals in Lakeland.
"I don't know why I waited so long to go out for wrestling," said Siciliano, who finished 14-13 overall with 11 pins. "My dad played football and wrestled in Wisconsin. I wish I could start all over again. It was a very rewarding season; I had a lot of fun."
Recalling his days as a Shark lineman, "Overall, we played well in the 2½ years I played with the varsity," pointed out Siciliano. "We had the talent, but in the fourth quarter we had some guys give up. . We were so close to winning so many times, but we seemed to break down in key spots.
"I'm not blaming anybody. I had two good years, but I think I could have done better, too."
On where Siciliano has improved, "My play across the board has gotten better," he said. "I remember as a freshman when I could barely bench 150. Now, I'm maxing out at 350. And technique-wise, I've gotten so much better on my blocking schemes - it kind of comes with age. As you get older, you get smarter at what you're doing."
???Siciliano graduated from NCT with a 2.2 grade point average in the engineering cluster and is torn between a possible career as a fish and game warden or becoming a coach.
"I'm an outdoor guy. I don't see myself working indoors. You can find me fishing 3-4 times a week at Hernando Beach," declared Siciliano. "I think it all started with my dad when I was smaller. He and I would go fishing all the time."
The transition to college is a huge obstacle for Siciliano.
"It'll definitely be hard," admitted Siciliano. "I'm a momma's boy. I'm real close to my mom. What will help is I have a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles in Chicago - so I won't be totally on my own. . I consider some of my cousins like brothers."