Danbury’s Calitro to play in East-West Shrine Game, sets sights on pro ball

January 5, 2017

Opportunity may very soon be knocking on Austin Calitro’s door, and the 2012 Danbury High School graduate and former multi-sport standout is working hard to make sure he’s ready if it does.

Like a lot of kids, Calitro grew up dreaming of playing professional football. Until recently, that’s all it was: a dream. However, the 6-foot-1, 247-pound wrecking ball of a linebacker recently concluded a stellar career at Villanova University, during which he went from a special-teams player to a defensive starter, then to a team captain, then to an All-American. In the process, he caught the eyes of some pro scouts, and all of a sudden, that far-off dream of playing pro ball seemed a bit more attainable.

Calitro, a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection this past season and a first-team pick on the Hero Sports FCS All-America Team, was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl, the annual all-star game which, since 1925, has showcased many of the best college football players in the country — including many soon-to-be NFL stars. Having already graduated from Villanova, Calitro has secured an agent and is in California training with other college players preparing for that game — set for Jan. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla. — and trying to land an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in late February.

“It’s all happening pretty fast, but I’m really excited about the whole opportunity,” Calitro said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“Last year at this time, I wasn’t think too much about it. I was thinking about getting an actual job, and I had a couple job offers,” he continued. “I was contacted by a couple agents and they were telling me what they had been hearing from scouts and stuff like that. From there, my family and I made the decision to give this thing a shot. It’s been a dream of mine since I started playing football at 8 or 9 years old. As soon as I understood what I had at stake, I just wanted to give it my all.”

In his Villanova career, Calitro played in 48 games and recorded 220 tackles, including 26 for a loss, and 8.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

“My dad told me when I was growing up that there’s always someone better out there,” Calitro said. “For me, I’ve always been trying to catch that someone who’s better and trying to be the best. I’m out here in California training with guys from Utah, Fresno State, Cal, big-name schools, so I’m kind of carrying a chip on my shoulder. That’s the way I’m going to approach this whole process, with something to prove.”

The Villanova defense this past season led all of FCS football in both total defense (259.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (15.0 points per game), and ranked fourth in rushing defense (87.6 yards per game). Calitro tied for the team lead with 86 tackles in 13 games, and was second on the team with 12 tackles for a loss. He also had 3.5 sacks.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats’ season ended with a 10-7 loss to seventh-ranked South Dakota State in the second round of the Division I FCS national playoffs. Villanova had defeated St. Francis in the first round, 31-21.