With just shy of four football seasons' worth of tackle football experience under his belt, St. Francis High senior Travis Talianko has already assured himself the opportunity of four more years of football.
On Wednesday morning, the Golden Knights receiver and safety verbally committed to play football at San Jose State University.
"They're the only team that's been straight up with me, they've been the most realistic," Talianko said. "I really like what they're doing, they're building something."
A 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect, Talianko said he also drew interest from Arizona State, UCLA, Nevada and San Diego State, among others. But, along with its honest approach, San Jose State also brought an urgency to the table that appealed to Talianko.
"There wasn't a lot of urgency from the other schools," he said. "It's not something I wanted to have hang over the season. It feels good.
"I dealt with the circus, if you could call it that, it's not like it was that much. There's worse problems to have, but it does feel good to have it off my back."
Now a two-way standout, it's unclear if Talianko will settle into the Spartans roster as a receiver or safety.
"I have no idea, but it doesn't matter," said Talianko, who expressed his willingness to play wherever the Spartans want and need him. "Receiver's what I'm good at. … Over the season, I've grown to have a pretty strong affection for the safety position."
St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds has never hesitated to say that Talianko has the best pair of hands he's ever seen for a high school receiver.
"I'm an offensive guy and I see those hands and I think what a waste not to have him as a slot receiver, using that athletic ability to get yards after the catch," Bonds said.
But, despite originally being recruited as an "athlete" by San Jose State, Bonds said most of the recruits he's talked to have been looking at Talianko as a safety.
A receiver since his days playing flag football, Talianko will enter a Spartans program in which its starting safeties in the team's 4-3 defense are a senior and a junior. In all, the Spartans have eight safeties on their roster — two seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and one freshman. Offensively, San Jose State runs a three-wide offense and all three of its starting receivers are underclassmen, including a freshman. The Spartans have 12 rostered receivers — two seniors, three sophomores and seven freshmen.
Under second-year Coach Mike MacIntyre, the Spartans are currently 2-3 and riding a two-game winning streak.
The reality of earning a scholarship to play college football began to come to fruition after Talianko's sophomore season, one in which he excelled on the gridiron and also witnessed first-hand the recruiting circus that followed teammate and three-time All-Area Football Player of the Year Dietrich Riley, who eventually committed to UCLA.
"After seeing the whole thing with Dietrich and all the hoopla and then getting a bunch of postseason accolades, I thought it could be a possibility," Talianko said.
Prior to high school, Talianko had only played flag football. After a successful season at the freshman level, he was brought up to varsity as a sophomore, where he played tight end, receiver and some defensive end. As a sophomore and junior, he's been an All-CIF, All-Area and All-Mission League selection.
"It says a lot," said Bonds of Talianko's ascent to being a NCAA Division I recruit in less than four years of tackle football. "If you have the athletic ability, you can learn the sport and excel."
Talianko excelled as a receiver in his sophomore and junior seasons, catching a combined 111 passes for 1,805 yards and 24 touchdowns.
During his current senior campaign, the Golden Knights are 4-0 and ranked fourth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division.
He began playing safety on defense as a junior and as a senior has become a standout as the Golden Knights' starting free safety. Thus far, he has 13 tackles through four games, along with one interception that he returned for a 97-yard touchdown. Talianko has also hauled in nine catches for 170 yards — an average of 18.9 yards a catch — and one touchdown.
Said Bonds: "I believe his best football is in front of him."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun