Oct. 20, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When being told that his quarterback days were done, redshirt senior safety Michael Greco (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) was given the opportunity by head coach George O'Leary to come back for one more season.
O'Leary sat Greco down in his office and laid out his options for him. He told Greco that he would not be playing quarterback for the 2009 season, but could either graduate or return to play in the Knights' secondary. Greco weighed his options, and quickly decided that he wanted one more year to help UCF in any way he possibly could.
Greco was determined to play another season of college football, regardless of position, after having experience with two division one teams and one junior college team.
Greco enrolled at North Carolina State as a true freshman in 2005, after being recruited out of Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The south Florida native lettered four years at quarterback in high school, where he registered 397 yards passing and two touchdowns and rushed for 186 yards and one touchdown as a senior. Greco also had 820 passing yards and 350 rushing yards, for a combined 11 touchdowns in his junior year. Before enrolling at N.C. State, Greco was rated as the No. 31 quarterback nationally by Scout.com and the 60th best player in the state of Florida by Rivals.com.
In 2006, Greco transferred to Pearl River Community College. As a quarterback for P.R.C.C., Greco totaled 612 yards passing and four touchdowns prior to an injury. The year 2007 saw the arrival of Greco to the Knights' offense, where the quarterback received playing time throughout the season. In 2008, O'Leary put Greco into the starting quarterback position. Greco finished the year with a team high 101.37 passing efficiency rating after completing 52-of-107 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns.
Since joining the Knights' young secondary this year, Greco has quickly proved his senior leadership. The Knights' defensive staff chose to put Greco into a starting position at safety, where he has registered 20 total tackles (13 solo, seven assisted) and one pass break-up.
As UCF prepares to travel this weekend to take on C-USA opponent Rice this Saturday, UCFAthletics.com caught up with Greco to get his thoughts on making the move to safety and being given the opportunity to play one more season.
What did you think when the decision was made to move to safety?
"I love it so far. When coach (George O'Leary) gave me the opportunity in the spring to play defense, I took that and ran with it. I wanted to help the team make plays and get better."
What were your biggest concerns about moving to defense?
"Essentially, it was just picking everything up. It is a lot different with the play schemes, and now being able to give hits. I was concerned about picking it all up, but I have found it easier as the season has gone on."
What was the hardest part of the transition? What was the easiest?
"Back pedaling was probably the hardest part. My whole life at quarterback was having everything going forward, and now it is a lot more of seeing it all backwards. The easiest part was just using my athleticism to make the play on the ball downhill."
Do you use your experience as a quarterback when playing in the secondary?
"I try to pick up on what the quarterback is going to be thinking when a blitz is being thrown at him. Mostly, I just go out and do my job, and to not get caught up of thinking of what he is thinking. I feel if I do that, that I might forget what my assignment is out there."
Have you even surprised yourself with how well you have played this season and becoming a starter?
"I knew when coach gave me the opportunity to play, that I was going to have to work hard and make plays. After proving that I wanted to be back out here, I earned the respect of the coaches and the team to be put into that position."
Looking back, do you wish that you played safety all along, or was it worth it to play quarterback?
"Sometimes I do wish I would have played a little bit on both sides of the ball. In college, it is real tough to do that, but with high school it would have been a lot easier. I did like playing quarterback for so long, but now that I play safety, I like playing that position, as well."
Have any of your fellow defensive backs helped you learn more about the position?
"When D-Hall (Derrick Hallman) was at safety, he really helped me learn the position and read coverages. That was the hardest thing was being able to know if one receiver went one way, what the other second and third receivers were going to do. He really helped me pick up the coverage and being able to read routes."
How much fun is it to be the one delivering the hits, instead of getting hit?
"With the defense always flying to the ball, it is a lot better knowing that you have five and six guys getting to the ball carrier, instead of being that ball carrier with the same guys all trying to get you. It is certainly fun knowing I can give the hits and not being the one getting hit."
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