TAMPA — He has been the surprise star of spring football at USF, a redshirt freshman praised nearly daily by coach Jim Leavitt.
Today, as the Bulls play their spring game, fans will get a look at the versatile Evan Landi, an all-state safety brought to USF to play quarterback but who also will line up at receiver and even as the holder on kicks.
Think the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder is versatile? You should see him on ice.
"He was quite a player," says Dale DeGray, general manager of the Owen Sound Attack, a junior hockey franchise in the Ontario Hockey League. "He was a tremendous athlete, but we knew he was a pretty good quarterback. So we didn't think it was going to truly be in the cards."
Landi spent a weekend in Ontario during his senior year at Coral Springs Charter School. He showed enough promise — he describes himself as a "tall, physical defenseman" — to be offered a roster spot.
"It was a tough decision," Landi said. "I had to figure out what I loved to do more."
Landi chose football, excited for today's debut and the positional flexibility that helped him choose the Bulls.
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier liked him as a receiver, and others recruited him as a linebacker. But Leavitt promised him a chance at quarterback. Today, he'll guide the White team at least during the second half.
Landi and fellow redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels are competing to back up Matt Grothe and, eventually, start in 2010.
Ask Leavitt what he likes about Landi, and fittingly, it's a little bit of everything.
"His leadership, his mentality, his want to be better every day," Leavitt said. "He's a very good athlete, very composed, very tough, very physical. He has very good hands, runs good routes. He's very coachable. No matter what's happening, he's always positive, doesn't get down."
Landi, who turns 19 on Wednesday, also starred in baseball and basketball. The Landis are a multisport family. His parents met at Central Florida, where Mike was a receiver and Dee played basketball. Older sister Justine was a first-team All-Big East selection last fall in volleyball, leading Louisville to the Big East title.
"She's the star in the family," said Landi, who showed his brotherly loyalty as a high school senior by wearing a Louisville T-shirt on USF's campus while attending one of her matches … after he'd committed to the Bulls.
For all of the family ties to UCF, the Knights didn't recruit him.
"I was a little surprised, but it didn't really bother me," Landi said of UCF. "I liked USF, obviously, so no biggie there."
His parents will be in Tampa today to see the spring game. Leavitt still isn't sure about Landi's future position, but for now, he is impressed no matter where he lines up.
"Can he play quarterback for us? Yes. I'm convinced of it," Leavitt said. "Can he play receiver for us? Yes. Could he play DB? I think he could, but he probably won't get over to that side.
"I told him, 'I'm so happy you're here.' "