Help is on the way
Joe Licata. MARK MULVILLE/The Buffalo News
Coaches search nation wide to find top talent, but Jeff Quinn found a treasure in his own backyard.
Williamsville South senior quarterback Joe Licata verbally committed to Buffalo in late August, spurning Syracuse and Akron, who were also interested in him. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he already has the body to challenge for the starting job in his first year. His throwing power coupled with his pinpoint accuracy further demonstrates how ready he is for the Division 1-A level.
Licata's high school coach Kraig Kurzanski will be sad to see Licata go but is happy to have watched the development of the young signal caller.
"His decision-making ability is better than I've ever seen," Kurzanski said to The Buffalo News. "His arm is terrific and he can make all the throws."
On the field, it's easy to see how talented Licata is, but his humble personality and quiet confidence set him apart from other young players.
Former NFL and Arena Football quarterback Jim Kubiak has worked with Licata and thinks that the Bulls are getting a remarkable young man and football player. He likes the "x-factor" Licata has, distinguishing him as a unique quarterback.
"He's got this moxxy that a lot of guys don't have," Kubiak said. "It's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is but when Tom Brady came in [to the NFL] with the New England Patriots, you knew he had it. It's a confidence, a leadership quality, and he's been so highly productive in such a short time that I think he is going to do great things when he has an opportunity at the next level."
Licata has been as good as ever through three games this season. He has thrown for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns with only one interception. He has completed 63 percent of his passes and is now seven touchdowns away from breaking the Western New York high school record for touchdowns in a career.
No stranger to etching his name in the record books, Licata became the all-time leader in career completions earlier this year and currently stands at 362. Last season against rival Williamsville North, he broke the WNY record for yards in a game when he threw for 492 yards in a 62-32 blowout against the Spartans.
Although he acknowledges what he has accomplished individually, he remains focused on team goals.
"My goal this season is to win a sectional championship," Licata said. "If I throw for 500 yards on the season and we go undefeated, I'll be happy. I'm sick of losing in the playoffs. We didn't finish as well as we should have last year and hopefully we'll get good weather this year and we'll take it home."
It's not at all a surprise that Licata would put the team before himself. Part of that stems from having a very solid foundation at home.
Licata is one of four children and his parents and three sisters have all played a very instrumental role in the person and player he has become.
"My family is at every game," Licata said. "We bring the Licata bus to every basketball and football game. To say I've done this alone would be a lie. My dad has taken me everywhere, my mom has always supported me in everything I do and my sisters are my biggest fans, which I love. They're a huge a part of this decision and they are excited for me. I think they're happy that I'm staying home."
The decision to stay home and attend UB was easy for Licata because of the love he has for his hometown. He wears Williamsville South gear everywhere he goes and he can't wait to put Buffalo football on the map.
"I look at what Dan LaFevour did at Central Michigan," Licata said. "Coach Quinn was actually the one who recruited LeFevour. It's kind of like I can be the home town kid and I can help this school become better known for football."
Walking into the fast paced spread offense is what really helped Licata make his decision to commit to UB. He looks forward to the responsibilities in the offense and being able to spread out the defense helps him keep his receivers happy by throwing downfield.
Former Williamsville South football and basketball player Mark Coppola played both sports with Licata. Both players grew up together on the court and on the field, and Coppola thinks Licata will be exactly what the Bulls need.
"Joe is a great quarterback who has outstanding leadership skills," Coppola said. "His best quality may be how humble he is and the dedication he has to the game."
Many have tabbed Licata as a pocket quarterback, but others think he brings much more to the table. Kubiak has been impressed with his ability to move in the pocket and his footwork allows him to extend plays.
The departure of seniors Peter Bittner and Jordan Jerrold on the offensive line will force Licata to utilize his entire repertoire in the pocket should he see the field.
With the struggles at quarterback this season, Licata could be called on sooner than later, and he has one message for fans when he does.
"You're going to get the hardest working kid you'll ever see," Licata said. "I'm passionate about the game. I love to win. I hate losing. I'd tell them to get ready because it's going to be an exciting four years."
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