Pascuzzi latest Knight standout that will play for Clarion

Add another to the list of college commitments for the Eisenhower Knights.

After a senior season in which he broke the school’s all-time rushing record, John Pascuzzi became Ike’s most recent college signee from the 2013 class, joining teammates Aaron Lundmark (Grove City) and Nathan O’Brien (Lock Haven). Pascuzzi will put on the blue and gold once again, only this time for Division II Clarion University.

“I visited the college and really liked it,” he said. “The coaches there were fantastic and I just really liked the campus,” said Pascuzzi.

If all of this seems familiar, Clarion is the alma mater of Warren County Sports Hall of Famer Steve Witte. Witte had the all-time rushing record at Eisenhower before Pascuzzi broke it last fall.

Witte played for Clarion from 1992-1996, and is the single-season record holder for the Golden Eagles with 1,352 yards and the second all-time rusher with 2,850 yards in his career. He was named a consensus First Team All-American and the PSAC-West Player of the Year as a senior.

Pascuzzi wouldn’t mind seeing his name next to Witte’s in another record book.

“You walk in and there’s a huge poster of him in the lobby,” said Pascuzzi. “It would be pretty cool; that’s a great achievement.”

Eisenhower coach Jim Penley downplayed the comparisons.

“If he turns out like Steve Witte, he’ll be a blessed kid,” said Penley. “I don’t think it’s something he’s going to worry about (at Clarion). He didn’t go into this year thinking about breaking a Steve Witte record – he did that because he’s a ballplayer.”

A captain at Eisenhower, Pascuzzi was a key part of the group that turned the Knights around from an 0-10 season in 2010, to Region 2 champions two seasons later in 2012. He compiled 1,582 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground as a senior and, for his efforts, was named a Region 2 first-team selection at both running back and defensive back.

“One of the things he brought to our program was a great attitude. He always worked unbelievably hard,” said Penley. “I don’t think he ever saw himself as bigger than anyone else. He wanted the ball and he wanted to win but it was never a ‘me’ thing. Even when he ran for 300 yards one week and 40 the next, I never got a complaint from him. He didn’t care as long as we won.”

Pascuzzi’s 3,199 career rushing yards at Ike surpassed Witte’s 3,115, and he added 26 rushing touchdowns. But he also had 169 tackles in his career, according to maxpreps.com. Pascuzzi was targeted on defense by a number of schools, including Juniata, Westminster, Allegheny, and Lock Haven – where he had the chance to continue playing with teammate Nate O’Brien.

“I put a lot of thought into that,” said Pascuzzi. “We’ve played together since third grade. It would have been pretty cool to play with him at the next level.”

The chance to stay on the offensive side of the ball was one of the factors that led him to sign with Clarion, even if it means taking a year to become accustomed to the college game.

“We talked about possibly redshirting the first year,” said Pascuzzi. “I need to work myself up and prove that I’m ready. It’s a whole different level from Eisenhower. I’m excited to get started.”

Which may be the reason he’s playing at the next level.

“That attitude is what I love most about him, and that’s how I know he’ll be a success,” added Penley. “He’s not going to be coddled when he gets there. He isn’t the kind of kid that’s going to go in thinking he’s a record holder in high school, he’ll go in thinking ‘I need to bust my tail and earn a job.'”