Don't let his shy demeanor fool you — when it comes to fighting for the ball in the air, Vinnie Ciurleo flies high for the South Walton Seahawks to make the catches.
Ciurleo, 18, has tallied up 27 catches for 339 yards and five touchdowns this season as a receiver. And on defense, as cornerback, he's pulled down two interceptions and has been credited with 17 tackles.
However, this all comes after sitting out of the game for three years.
“It was my last year of high school," Vinnie said, noting he hadn't played since middle school. "I just missed playing … I love football. I like playing on Friday nights."
The 6-foot-1 son of Shirley and Paul Ciurleo of Sandestin got his start in football playing in the recreation league in Destin as a youngster. He went on to play his eighth grade year at Destin Middle School where he was a receiver and defensive end. But after Destin Middle, he decided to concentrate on basketball.
He played as a junior for the Seahawk basketball team and will be back on the hardwood this season as well.
But in the meantime, he's putting his rebounding skills to work on the gridiron.
"Vinnie is a dynamic player," said football coach Phil Tisa. "He's got speed and the ability to go up and fight for the ball. That's where you see his basketball background coming in … going up to get rebounds. Just thrilled that he decided to come out this year. He's been a big pickup for us this year."
Vinnie, like last year, will be the starting point guard on the basketball team.
"Week after week he's not the same guy. He gets better … he makes sure he improves," South Walton basketbll coach John Davies said, noting Ciurleo’s work ethic is impeccable. "Whatever it is, he just gets to work.”
And that improvement can be seen on the football field each week as well.
"He gives you that vertical threat," Tisa said. "He's that guy that can stretch the field and at the same time he gives you that guy that when you get down in the red zone, you can throw the ball up and give him a chance to go up and get it."
Vinnie has had five catches for touchdowns, one against Franklin County, North Bay Haven, Cottondale, Holmes County and Freeport.
However, the win over Freeport a couple of weeks ago was his most memorable, because "we had never beaten them before," he said. Not only did he score a touchdown, but he also pulled down an interception against the Bulldogs.
With the 49-21 win over the Bozeman Bucks last Friday night, the Seahawks have secured a spot in the playoffs.
"Our goal was to win the district," Vinnie said. "Now it’s just to win in the playoffs."
South Walton will travel to Port St. Joe on Nov. 15 to take on the Sharks in the Class 1A Regional Semifinals.