AP Images
Anthony Chickillo

The Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- When the college football recruiting process began for Anthony Chickillo a couple years ago, his father offered one simple piece of advice. "Make your own name,'' Tony Chickillo said.

At Miami, that will not be an easy task.

Anthony Chickillo, one of the most-coveted defensive ends in the country, signed Wednesday with the Hurricanes -- making his family the first to produce three generations of Miami players. Nick Chickillo was an All-American offensive lineman in the early 1950s, Tony Chickillo played at Miami on his way to becoming an NFL defensive lineman, and now the legacy will continue.

"It's my turn now,'' said Anthony Chickillo, who had 30 sacks in his final two seasons at Tampa (Fla.) Alonso High. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Chickillo will be one of the headliners of a Miami class of at least 15 and possibly closer to 20 signees, the first group will commit to being part of the Al Golden regime with the Hurricanes. Golden and his staff cannot comment about unsigned players until actually receiving their letters of intent, per NCAA rules.

Early returns, however, suggest that Golden expects to land a solid class -- no small feat when a coach takes over at a school late in the recruiting process. "We've got a leader,'' offensive line coach Art Kehoe said of Golden, his new boss. "And he has got the goods. And we're going to win. And we've got a heck of a staff. And we're going to find a way to win. And I know what's out there is probably Florida-tough and ready.''

Anthony Chickillo committed to the Hurricanes last fall when Randy Shannon was the head coach at Miami. Chickillo said throughout the recruiting process that the relationship he forged with Shannon and his staff made his decision easy. Two months later, it got far more difficult.

Chickillo -- wearing a T-shirt he made to boast of his third-generation Miami status -- was in the stands for the Hurricanes' regular-season finale, a loss to South Florida. He noticed a plane flying above the stadium before the game with a banner calling for Shannon's firing, heard countless jeers from South Florida fans throughout the day, and was aghast at how many seats were empty that afternoon.

By the time he got home from that trip, Shannon had been fired. "Anthony saw the business side of college football,'' Tony Chickillo said. "We did support Randy. It's unfortunate.''

Schools lined up to pounce. Chickillo was Miami's top overall target when Shannon's staff was in place. Coaches from Florida called almost at the same instant that news broke of Shannon's hiring. Plenty of others followed suit, and suddenly, a firm Miami commitment was shaky at best.

Golden eventually was hired to replace Shannon, and he chased Chickillo with as much gusto as his Miami predecessor. "He wants to do things the right way and he wants to win now,'' Tony Chickillo said. "You've got to like that about a coach. He doesn't think it's a project here. We certainly have the athletes to win and compete right away and win our first Atlantic Coast Conference title, which is almost embarrassing to say.''

Tony Chickillo said he did not pressure his son into signing with Miami. Yes, his son has been surrounded with Miami souvenirs, dressed in Miami clothing and heard countless Miami stories for his entire life. In the end, he also made his own decision about where to attend school -- and he had offers from nearly half of the nation's major college programs.

"I'm real proud for Anthony,'' Tony Chickillo said. "This was one of his goals, to attend the University of Miami. It's going to be satisfaction and relief that he accomplished the goal that he set out for as a youngster.''

The one thing Tony Chickillo hasn't truly enjoyed about the recruiting process is all the attention the three-generation story line has generated. Nick Chickillo died in 2001, but saw his grandson play at the youngest levels of organized football for a couple years. He boldly predicted that his grandson would be a special player, and Tony Chickillo makes no effort to hide how proud he is that his son became one of the nation's top high schoolers.

"Yes, it's special because it's Miami's first third-generation player,'' Tony Chickillo said. "But it doesn't make him a great player. He still knows he has to perform out on the field. Don't walk in my shadow or Nick's shadow. Make your own name. And he will, because he is that type of player.''