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July 9, 2012

Donatell ready to serve where needed

Sunday was enrollment day for most of Wake Forest's incoming freshman football class, including multi-position athlete Steve Donatell.

The 6-5, 200-pound Donatell, who played his prep football in Highlands Ranch (Colo.), has been spending the summer working out with his father, San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, in preparation of his arrival in Winston-Salem as a new member of the Demon Deacon football program.

Deacons Illustrated spoke with Donatell in the days leading up to his departure for Winston-Salem.

"It's been real exciting (anticipating arriving to college)," Donatell said. "I've been counting down the days, and I've just been trying to get my body in the best shape I can before I go for workouts and stuff. I've been mainly working on athleticism drills and stuff to stay active. I've just been real excited. I'm ready to get out there."

Wake Forest's coaching staff has been preparing Donatell for the possibility that he'll get his start as a linebacker for the Demon Deacons, but he's been working out in preparation for a chance to play any one of a number of different positions, including quarterback.

"I've been working on everything," he said. "I've been out working out with my dad. We've been throwing in case they need me at quarterback. And they (Wake's coaches) have talked to me about the possibility of linebacker, so they've been showing me some techniques on that."

Having a father who has an extensive background in both college and pro football---the elder Donatell has worked for five different NFL franchises---certainly is an advantage for the younger Donatell as he continues to learn the sport.

"It's a huge advantage (with my father's knowledge). I'm so thankful for it. He's been a big help for me the last couple of months helping me get prepared and watching film. He's just been a really great help for me," Donatell said.

The incoming freshman believes his father, given his defensive expertise, could continue being a significant help for him should he indeed wind up playing linebacker at Wake Forest.

"If I were to move over to the defensive side, he (my dad) knows a lot about that. So he would help out with that a lot."

Donatell doesn't have a specific place on the field in mind where he wants or expects to play.

His biggest criteria on position are where it will help the team, and where it will get him early playing time.

"My role when I get to Wake is anywhere they need me, I'll play," he said.

"Wherever I can get on the field faster, and wherever I can help them win ball games, you know, whether it be at quarterback, linebacker tight end, wide receiver. Wherever they need me, I'll be ready to play."

Donatell committed to Wake Forest this past January, just a few days after his official visit and within a few days of National Signing Day.

The versatile prospect, listed the No. 10 player in Colorado in the Rivals.com 2012 state rankings, had several options, but Wake Forest prevailed over longtime national power Nebraska, among others, to land his letter of intent.

Donatell gave us several reasons why Wake Forest was the choice for him.

"You know, definitely I'd have to start off with the coaching staff and the players on the team. When I went for my official visit it felt like home and a big family down there with the freshman class, sophomore class and so on. It felt like a big Wake Forest family."

With a father in professional football, Donatell has seen first-hand how the annual coaching carousel can move people around all over the country in the blink of an eye.

And it impresses him that Jim Grobe, despite numerous opportunities to head elsewhere, has stayed in Winston-Salem for what will be his 12th season this fall with the Demon Deacs.

"I was really impressed with Coach Grobe. He's been there forever and he's a great head coach. So many times these coaches will only be at a program for two or three years, but he's been there for a while now. That shows what kind of coach he is."

Although his primary recruiter to Wake Forest, Steve Russ, has moved on from the Demon Deacons program, Donatell has been developing a new rapport over the past few months with coaches Derrick Jackson and Tom Elrod.

"I really liked my (former) recruiting coordinator, Steve Russ. He's now at Air Force, but I loved him and he was recruiting me pretty hard. The new linebackers coach, Coach Jackson, he's been a big help to me getting ready (for arriving at Wake). I've enjoyed a couple talks with him, as well as Coach Elrod," Donatell said.

Wake Forest's academics, as well as the favorable climate of North Carolina's Triad region, were also important for Donatell in his decision to head east for college.

"You look at the great academics at the school (Wake), and knowing that if football does not work out (professionally) I would have a great education behind that."

"And I just like the climate down in the southeast. I'm used to that. I lived in Georgia for four years. It's a lot like Georgia (in North Carolina), and I loved Georgia," he added.

Donatell is keenly aware of the fact that Wake Forest not only won an Atlantic Coast Conference title recently, but that they were within a few plays down at Clemson of having a chance to play for another ACC title a season ago.

He's eager about the chance to get on the practice field this August and find a place where he can help the Deacons have even more success.

"They (Wake Forest) seem like a team on the rise, and being in the ACC, that's a tough conference. So anytime you're in contention for getting into the ACC championship game, you know you're on the right track."



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