Jake Basilica has chosen to follow his dream.
Basilica, a four-year starter for the Montville High School football team, had offers to play at the Football Championship Subdivision or Division II level. He wanted to play at the highest level, however, and opted to become a preferred walk-on at UConn.
"You hear the old saying, 'you only go around once,'" Basilica said Thursday night. "I thought I had a shot and decided to take it. I enjoy the challenge of it. Everything about it intrigued me. I like being close to UConn. UConn is a great school."
Basilica, a 6-foot-2, 282 pound offensive lineman, was a three-time member of The Day's All-Area team. Boston College was interested in him earlier in his career, and schools like Villanova (FCS) and Southern Connecticut State (Div. II) were among those pursuing him his senior year.
"I wanted to go to a big-time Division I school," Basilica said. "It just so happened that UConn was the best fit for me all-around. I figure if football doesn't work out, I'm close to home and am getting a good education, all that good stuff."
Basilica began life at Storrs on June 25 - five days after graduation - and is enrolled in summer school. He's taking six credits, and although he hasn't chosen a major, he's interested in mechanical engineering.
"I told him, 'Some people might tell you negative things, but if it matters to you, do it,'" Montville coach Tanner Grove said.
"He's been working like a dog. Once football ended, he worked out like a freak. … Usually 300-pound kids aren't like, 'hey, I'm going to go sprint today.'"