TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – By the time his college football career wraps up in a few weeks, Bryan LaCivita will have played on a national championship team, been a part of two ACC titles and, as a walk-on member of the scout team, helped to prepare some of the best players in recent Florida State football history.
A receiver from Gainesville, LaCivita has a full football resume, complete with several years’ worth of scars and bruises.
But the accomplishment he’s most proud of came just a few months ago.
And it came as a complete surprise.
As Florida State wrapped up fall camp in August, Mark Robinson, FSU’s director of football operations, summoned LaCivita and two other walk-ons to the football offices and told them they needed to sign some NCAA compliance paperwork.
But when LaCivita got to the third floor, Robinson told him only that coach Jimbo Fisher was ready to see him.
No, walk-ons don’t usually get one-on-one meetings in the head coach’s office.
“He asked me how I was doing, because I had surgery in the spring,” LaCivita said. “I said, ‘Good.’”
It was then that Fisher revealed the real reason for LaCivita’s visit: He was offering him a scholarship and needed LaCivita to sign his contract and make it official.
“Honestly, I was speechless,” LaCivita said. “When I went to sign it, my hand was shaking.
“It was something I’ll never forget.”
LaCivita didn’t have to wait long to share the moment with his family: His father, Bob LaCivita, is Florida State’s director of player personnel, and his office is right around the corner from Fisher’s.
Bob LaCivita was about as surprised as his son, and together they called Bryan’s mother, Michelle, and delivered the news over speaker phone.
“It’s something that you’re excited about,” Bob said. “Then the more you reflect on it, the more it sinks in.”
‘I was going to come here’
LaCivita traveled an unusual road to Tallahassee.
Bob LaCivita spent two years (2005-06) as the director of football operations at the University of Florida, which meant that LaCivita grew up wearing orange and blue, surrounded by UF fans at Gainesville’s St. Francis Catholic Academy.
But when Bob moved north to Tallahassee for a position at Florida State, Bryan traded his Gator gear for garnet and gold the very next day.
Safe to say that the switch was not well received at school.
“Our high school had uniforms, but one day was ‘Orange and Blue Day,’ so you could wear your Florida stuff,” LaCivita said. “(FSU had) just come off our Champs Sports Bowl victory against Wisconsin, and I had the shirt, and I thought, ‘I guess I can wear this,’ and I walked into school with it on. And the principal came up and told me I could only wear Florida stuff.
“I had to put a white school polo on over it, but you could still see through it.”
By his junior year of high school, LaCivita had developed into a nice football player for St. Francis.
He earned a spot on the all-district team – alongside future FSU star P.J. Williams — and later played in the FACA North-South All-Star Game.
Along the way, he attracted interest from both Middle Tennessee and Colorado State. But every time those teams came calling, LaCivita always had the same answer: He already knew where he wanted to play college football.
“I knew the whole time,” LaCivita said. “I was going to come here.”
‘The Best Look I Can’
DeMarcus Walker, FSU’s senior defensive end, recently said that players can’t just “like” football and play at Florida State. They have to love it.
That maxim looks great on a locker room wall or a t-shirt, but it holds especially true for the Seminoles’ walk-ons.
They volunteer for the grueling, physical practices designed to simulate a given week’s opponent, all while putting themselves through school.
Their jobs, essentially, are to put Florida State’s scholarship players in the best position to succeed.
Sometimes, LaCivita’s responsibilities include running routes and catching passes against Florida State’s first-team defense. More often than not, though, his job includes getting hit. Hard.
Since arriving at FSU in 2013, LaCivita has battled through multiple concussions, a sports hernia, tears in his groin and a fracture in his back.
He walked off the practice fields earlier this week with his hand wrapped in an oversized bag of ice – “Nothing new,” he said.
“Since freshman year, he goes out there every day,” junior receiver Travis Rudolph said. “I haven’t seen him miss a practice. He works hard. Very hard.”
Added Ermon Lane, a receiver-turned-safety who has practice both with and against LaCivita: “He’s the one receiver that takes reps with the ‘1s’ and the ‘2s,’ because he knows the whole playbook. He puts the time in to know it. he takes his playbook home to learn it, so he knows every position.”
LaCivita’s persistence has paid off over the course of his career. As a freshman in 2013, he appeared in three games – against Nevada, Maryland and Idaho – and he took a turn hoisting the crystal football after the won the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, Calif.
He’s also appeared on offense and special teams at times in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
“That’s every walk-on’s dream,” Lane said. “To come to the games and put on a uniform.”
Although he’s now a Division I, scholarship football player, LaCivita says life hasn’t changed all that much.
He’s still laboring on the practice fields, still studying film and still devoted to giving FSU’s defense the best simulation possible prior to each week’s game
“I just want to give them the best look I can,” LaCivita said. “It’s about the team. It’s not about me.”