T.J. Fatinikun is finally free of pain. Soon he will be free from paying college tuition.
Fatinikun, who will be a senior at Perrysburg this fall, yesterday verbally committed to play football at Bowling Green State University.
Hampered by a knee injury last year, Fatinikun admittedly regressed from a stellar sophomore season. But he improved his stock recently with promising showings at summer football camps. BG offered Fatinikun a scholarship at its camp last month, and he made his intentions known yesterday to defensive coordinator Mike Ward.
"With the injury I was thinking I had nothing. Now it's, wow, Division I," Fatinikun said. "I think Bowling Green got a steal because I know I can play. I'm going to show it this year."
Per NCAA rules, coaches are not allowed to comment on a recruit until the athlete signs a letter of intent in February.
Fatinikun has been told by the coaching staff that he will play defensive end or outside linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Fatinikun believes he will add bulk without compromising his 4.6 second 40-yard time.
"He's a speed rusher, change of direction kind of guy," Perrysburg coach Matt Kregel said. "He's hard to get your hands on. Back to his sophomore year, he had a great season. [Offensive linemen] had a hard time locking on. Now, with the added size, he's going to be tough to block."
After being named first team Northern Lakes League in his sophomore year, Fatinikun began thinking about playing beyond high school. But during a basketball game that winter he injured his knee and needed surgery, which kept him on crutches for six months. Operating at what he considered 70 percent health, Fatinikun was a second team NLL pick last year and helped the Yellow Jackets to their first playoff appearance.
BG is the only school that offered Fatinikun a scholarship, although he sensed that the Toledo and Eastern Michigan were nearing that point.
"I believe they didn't all realize my talent, and BG was able to realize that," Fatinikun said. "I was 70 percent all of my junior year and [other schools] probably weren't sure about me. I appreciate BG realizing it, and everything just kind of fell into place."
Fatinikun didn't feel waiting for other offers was necessary because he likes the direction in which the Falcons are headed as well as their improved athletic facilities. And although Kregel himself was once a Falcon, Fatinikun wasn't pressured to commit to BG. He becomes Kregel's first Division I recruit.
"I'm just glad that he's come full circle and he's gotten this offer," Kregel said. "My advice to him was with what he's gone through, I think I'd accept the offer. This is a great opportunity for him."
Fatinikun moved to Perrysburg from Philadelphia a few years ago, so he was not a BG fan. But he noticed the Falcons were often winning and playing in bowl games, and that was appealing. Before making his decision Fatinikun asked Ward eight questions regarding such matters as academics and playing time. Ward's candid answers closed the deal.
"Every question that I came up with, he gave me the answer I wanted to hear," Fatinikun said.
In other BG recruiting news, Brownsburg (Ind.) High School defensive lineman Chris Jones committed to the Falcons on Tuesday, according to Scout.com.
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