Growing up in Clearwater, Fla., the three-star Buford lineman has been a lifelong FSU fan –– literally. The day his parents, Kerri and Jay, brought him home from the hospital, the youngster sported a Seminole onesie. Less than a decade later, he attended his first game at Doak Campbell Stadium, where the Seminoles pounded Virginia, 36-3.
Cardiello’s fanhood derives from his mother’s roots. She and all of her siblings, as well as their three cousins, went to school in Tallahassee so when the recruiting process began, it was “a blessing” that he was being sought after by their alma mater.
“I was really impressed with [FSU coach] Jimbo [Fisher], and everything he’s doing down there,” she said. “Of course I would have loved to see Josh play there, but I didn’t pressure him into a decision whatsoever.”
Cardiello claims that although his mother didn’t add any extra constraints, there were plenty of family members who poked fun at him for picking Georgia.
“It’s definitely hard to get the whole family to convert but I think they’re all coming around,” he said while laughing. “They joked around and would be like, ‘Hey, I’ll still come to your games, but I’m going to be wearing Florida State gear.’ Its definitely good pressure between the family though –– never anything like ‘You have to go to Florida State.’”
Cardiello had hoped to wind up at Florida State before the recruiting process began. However, a few visits to Athens started to sway his mind. Meeting with head coach Mark Richt and offensive line coach Will Friend proved to be very insightful, and he could tell that he would learn a lot from the two.
“I think it speaks to a testament of Georgia,” Jay Cardiello, Josh’s father, said. “Being exposed to all of the Florida schools growing up but then going to Georgia. You always have to start with the people, and there are great people [at Georgia]. We were all impressed with the moral compass Coach Richt has, and the character and leadership he displays. You’d be crazy to not let your kid go there.”
Cardiello’s biggest factor in making his commitment was where he would fit best –– athletically, academically and socially. He has some experience in this area though. He went through a similar routine four years ago when narrowing a selection for where he’d play high school ball.
Despite living in Forsyth County, Cardiello looked around for Gwinnett County high schools where he could make not only an impact on the field, but a name for himself also. “The tradition” is what sold him on becoming a Buford Wolf.
Cardiello starting against Carver as a sophomore in 2010. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)
“I remember watching them win the state championship on TV with Josh when he was in the 8th grade,” Jay Cardiello said of the Wolves’ 2008 title. “He turned to me after the game and said, ‘I want to go there.’”
The 2008 championship was Buford’s fifth in eight years. Since Cardiello’s arrival, the Wolves have won two more in 2009 and 2010 and were the runner-up last year to Calhoun.
Jess Simpson, who has a 95-6 record in seven years as Buford’s head coach, is excited about his team’s chances for the 2012 campaign, but even more thrilled that Cardiello’s commitment decision is already in the books.
“I think he’s made the decision that he’s rock solid with,” Simpson said. “Josh is now excited about committing to Buford this fall … I don’t care to have a distraction, but if a kid is in that situation, it allows him to be a more productive senior in our program because he’s not conflicted all the time about a decision he’s going to eventually make.
On the other side of the ball, Buford linebacker Korie Rogers is fielding offers from the likes of Clemson, East Carolina, Florida and Georgia. However, unlike Cardiello, Rogers has two more seasons playing in green and gold. Like Cardiello though, “tradition” will weigh heavily on his mind when making a decision.
“Its a very important factor for me, which is why I love it here at Buford,” Rogers said. “I want to continue that by going to a college with great tradition. I think Georgia does a great job of recruiting [Buford] players. They’re around quite often and always keeping up with our program.”
Rogers went on to say that proximity to home is “definitely a consideration because I’m very close with my mom and little brothers. They look up to me a lot, so it’s a pretty big part [of my decision].”
Though Rogers won’t have to sign any letters of intent for a while, he still enjoys the spotlight that comes with being recruited by top programs. He understands that there are both pros and cons that come with that though and says he will continue to turn to Cardiello for advice.
Cardiello had a similar ‘big brother’ figure of his own during his recruitment –– Georgia tackle Kolton Houston.
“Kolton has been very supportive and guided me well,” Cardiello said. “He told me to go where my heart told me. The recruiting process was kind of slow for me at first, so when I would get a little antsy he was there to tell me to be patient and that it would all work out.”
Cardiello hopes that Rogers will join him and Houston in Athens two years from now, though he of all people knows that a lot of time and research will need to be put in first.
“Ultimately, it’s a business decision. If you don’t do your homework and investigate a program you could be in a situation you don’t want to be in,” Cardiello said. “I tell him that he needs to go somewhere that he can benefit athletically and academically. I’ve been pressuring him and asking when he’s going to commit [to Georgia], but it’s all fun and games.”
Cardiello with fellow Georgia offensive line commits Brandon Kublanow and Aulden Bynum at Dawg Night in July. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)