Rizzo rise no cause for alarm

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger can sleep well at night because of the Rizzo family.

John Rizzo Sr. installed the alarm system at Schnellenberger's condominium to keep the coach's family safe, and John Rizzo Jr., a junior offensive tackle, keeps Schnellenberger's quarterbacks out of harm's way.

 
 

While John Rizzo Sr. was at Schnellenberger's home, he noticed the football memorabilia, but didn't know his customer coached at FAU, the same school where his son had just enrolled.

"I was walking out when I saw an FAU helmet, and told (Schnellenberger's wife) Beverlee my son was going to school there and wanted to play football," Rizzo Sr. said.

The chance meeting earned offensive tackle John Rizzo Jr. a tryout with Schnellenberger that he passed easily to earn a spot on the team as a freshman.

"He wasn't sought out by big Division I programs, but he has come here, made a major difference and become a surprising leader," Schnellenberger said.

When Rizzo Jr. tried out, he weighed 240 pounds. He has since beefed up to 295 pounds and is known as one of the team's best blockers.

"The last two years have gone by fast," Rizzo Jr. said. "It doesn't seem like too long ago I had short hair and was getting picked on because I was a little freshman. Now I'm picking on the little freshmen."

Rizzo Jr. started every game in 2006 despite having bruised ribs the entire season. But he battled through the pain.

"If I can go, I'm going," Rizzo Jr. said. "I'm here to play football. I'm not going to stop just because it hurts."

Now it's alarming to think of FAU's offensive line without Rizzo Jr., who has been one of the Owls' most dependable starters since cracking the lineup midway through the 2005 season.

"I'm thankful my dad was there that day," Rizzo Jr. said. "Because of that, I'm playing college football."