Joe Fagnano called it a surreal moment.
The true freshman quarterback for the University of Maine was caught completely off guard following Wednesday’s scrimmage when Black Bears head coach Nick Charlton informed him that he had earned a full scholarship for his play during training camp.
He was mobbed by his teammates.
“It’s great. It shows that hard work pays off,” Fagnano said. “I’ve been here three to four weeks, and they’re already showing love like that.
The Williamsport, Pennsylvania, native, who had been on a partial scholarship, has earned the backup quarterback role behind third-year starter Chris Ferguson through his combination of running and passing skills.
“He shows a lot of poise for a young quarterback,” Charlton said. “He’s probably the farthest along [for a true freshman quarterback] than any I’ve seen here or at the last place I was at [Boston College].
“He has a lot of that ‘it’ factor to him. He can make the throws. He can move. He can run. He’s willing to learn, and whenever he makes a mistake he moves on from it.”
Ferguson also sees a lot of potential in his new understudy.
“[Fagnano] came here with an attitude that he wanted to work, and he wanted to play,” Ferguson said. “I really liked that out of him.
“He’s knowledgeable, which is cool as a young kid. When I was his age as a freshman I couldn’t do what he’s doing, honestly. It’s really impressive. You’re gonna see some good things out of him.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Fagnano said a good work ethic is a must.
“That has to be your mindset if you want to succeed in anything,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from Chris. He helps me out in the playbook, how to read defenses. I can’t thank him enough.”
Fagnano has been pleased with his progress in understanding and executing the offense.
“I feel like I’m getting it,” he said. “Obviously there’s still some things you’ve got to clean up. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and keep working.”
While Ferguson is more of a drop-back passer, Charlton said it is beneficial to have a quarterback like Fagnano who can add a run element.
Fagnano had several nifty runs during UMaine’s second preseason scrimmage on option reads, where he can either hand it off to a running back or keep the ball. He also can scramble for yardage if he cannot find an open receiver.
“[Scrambling] is always in the back of my head. If my first and second reads aren’t there and I’m scrambling around, it’s always good to have that in your arsenal so you can pick up four yards here or there,” Fagnano said.
Fagnano was an all-state quarterback at Williamsport High School and was the Wyoming Area Offensive Player of the Year.
He comes from an athletic family.
Fagnano’s father Philip pitched at the University of South Florida and spent two seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league system. His oldest brother, Jacob, was a safety at Penn State and his other brother, Jared, was a wide receiver at Akron before transferring to Penn State where he played football and was a relief pitcher for the baseball team.
”We spent countless days playing football in the backyard,” Fagnano said. “They toughened me up. They taught me how to be a man. Before I came up here they told me what college was going to be like. They helped me with a bunch of things.”
Fagnano’s goal for this season is to be ready to play his role when Charlton and the Black Bears need him.
“He is going to be a real good player for us,” junior center Chris Mulvey said. “He has good arm talent, he has learned the offense quickly, and he’s a smart kid. He reads the game really well and he can run. He deserves his scholarship.”