Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

Fiammetta relishes his time in the spotlight

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Minutes before his first collegiate practice, Walkersville High graduate Tony Fiammetta stood around chatting with his Syracuse University teammates.

When the horn sounded to begin the session everyone sprinted off in a different direction, Fiammetta didn't know where to go. Fast forward to today and the senior fullback knows exactly where he's heading; directly at you.

"It's been a good four years up here at SyACXracuse," he said. "It's a long way from Walkersville High, but I'm excited for this season. I'm going to do my best and get Syracuse where they need to be."

A redshirt senior, Fiammetta is entering his final season in upstate New York. Over the past four years, particularly this spring, he's steadily rising up the depth charts and now figures to be a prominent component of the Syracuse offense.

Fiammetta has molded himself into a legitimate threat both out of the backfield and as a receiver. However he likes nothing more than lowering his 6-foot-1, 235 pound frame and bouldering over an opponent.

"As the fullback, I like leading the way for the tailbacks," he said. "Let them get the glory."

It was about 10 a.m. yesterday when Fiammetta spoke to a reporter with The Gazette via phone. His day is meticulously scheduled. Practice, meetings, weight lifting sessions and interviews all have their slot. Looking back, he compares his days at Walkersville to playing in a recreation league. Back then, football was a leisurely activity requiring only a couple of hours a day. Now the demands are much higher.

"They got us working hard up here," he said. "It's very demanding. I think any nine-to-five job won't be as hard since I've been through this experience."

Time management has only been one thing Fiammetta has taken from his time with the Orange. It hasn't always been an easy road. He was almost an afterthought when he first arrived on campus.

"[Playing here] has taught me a really good work ethic," he said. "It's taught me how to persevere. I didn't come here as a highly-regarded player. I had to work my way up. It took a lot of perseverance just to get out there every day and do much better, just to work my way up the ladder."

Victories have been difficult to come by during Fiammetta's career. After redshirting in 2004, Syracuse went 1-10 in 2005. In 2006 the Orangemen improved to 4-8 before taking a step back and posting a 2-10 mark last season.

Returning the program, which at one point from the late 1980's to the start of the millennium posted 15 consecutive winning seasons, to its former glory is Fiammetta's primary objective this season. This is his final chance to contend for a Big East championship and earn a prominent bowl berth.

"These past few years have been very disappointing," he said. "I think it would be good for the school, the town and all of the people following me back home."

One roadblock Fiammetta and his teammates will encounter is a September 13 encounter at the Carrier Dome with Penn State and Linganore alum Mike Lucian. Fiammetta remembers battling the former Lancers' standout during his Pop Warner days and also from a recruiting trip they both attended at Maryland. While they won't square off on the gridiron, Lucian is an offensive lineman; Fiammetta still looks forward to the reunion.

A constant threat to deliver a punishing run or a barreling block, Fiammetta is hard to ignore. He hopes his success at Syracuse makes Frederick County hard to overlook as well.

Throughout the season, opposing linebackers and defensive backs will get Fiammetta's best shot. Following this season, it he'll turn his attention to a shot at the National Football League.