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Published: Saturday, 12/27/2008

Fatinikun plans to be a Rocket

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

T.J. Fatinikun still intends to play football for a Mid-American Conference program located in northwest Ohio.

But it won't be Bowling Green State University.

Fatinikun, a senior defensive end at Perrysburg, has rescinded his verbal commitment to BG and will instead play for its rival, the University of Toledo. Fatinikun came to his decision on Christmas Day and is either a great gift giver or a grinch depending which side of the I-75 rivalry one supports.

"It was not an easy decision," Fatinikun said. "It was not easy to tell BG. It just came down to what was best for me and my family and my future."

Fatinikun began exploring his options after BG fired coach Gregg Brandon a day after the Falcons ended the season with a 38-10 thumping of the Rockets. UT emerged on Fatinikun's radar when former BG defensive coordinator Mike Ward took the same position at UT. Ward recruited Fatinikun (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) at both schools. Ex-BG offensive coordinator Matt Campbell also accepted a position under new UT coach Tim Beckman earlier this month.

"Toledo felt right," said Fatinikun, who committed to BG last summer after attending its camp. "I was real comfortable al-ready with coach Ward. When he became a coach at UT I met the other coaches and everything felt right."

Fatinikun, a first-team Northern Lakes League pick, said BG commits Ricky Steele (defensive back from Cincinnati) and Zac Kerin (offensive lineman from Olentangy, Ohio) also expect to sign with the Rockets on the Feb. 4 National Signing Day.

Fatinikun said BG recruiting coordinator Doug Phillips was "disappointed" with his decision. Phillips and running backs coach John Hunter were the only members of Brandon's staff to be retained by new coach Dave Clawson.

Steele, who hails from the same high school as BG quarterback Tyler Sheehan, said he was concerned when Clawson did not get in touch with him until several days after he was announced as coach. Clawson eventually visited Steele in Cincinnati, but it wasn't enough to sway his decision.

"The things he said really weren't impressive and that was when I decided to go to Toledo," Steele said. "If coach Clawson was anything like coach Brandon I probably would have thought about it a little harder."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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