BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — It was a college signing which almost didn't happen. However, it had nothing to do with COVID-19. Owego standout Gio Fabi was actually considering hanging up his gear following the 2019 football season.
Fortunately, his friend, Mason Pratt, talked some sense into him and on Monday he signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Ithaca College.
"I wasn't sure, actually, halfway through senior year that football was really what I wanted to do," Fabi told a group of onlookers at the signing. "I told him in public speaking; I wrote my speech down that he was the reason that I kept playing, because after we lost to M-E, I thought to myself that that was probably the last game that I ever played. And no one knew that. It was just my thoughts, my everything.
"It wasn't me losing my passion for the game. It was just I thought I was done, and Mason came up to me and he said, 'we're going to miss this man, we're never going to forget this.' And those words, they may not sound like they meant that much, but they kind of sunk into me and I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I just decided that I was stupid to put it away, so I'd like to thank Mason for where I am right now."
Fabi, a three-time all-state defensive lineman and two-time All-Tioga County Defensive Player of the Year, has anchored the Indians' defense the past three seasons. Stellar play in the trenches earned the 6-foot-2, 260-pound nose guard New York State Sportswriters Association Class B second-team spots as a junior and senior, and he was an honorable mention as a sophomore.
The Bombers plan to utilize his talents on defense as well, although possibly in a different capacity.
"I'm not really sure yet, but defensive. Maybe the outside," Fabi said. "He told me he would like me on the outside more than on the inside."
Owego head coach Steve Virkler feels Fabi has plenty to offer Ithaca.
"I think a lot," he said. "Number one, as a person going there, and being the person that he is, I think they're picking up a quality guy in addition to what he brings to the football field, which I think will help them sooner rather than later. I think he's got a chance to step in soon, once he gets acclimated to everything and their system and what's going on, I think he's got a chance to get on the field."
Dan Swanstrom, who is entering his fourth season as the head coach on South Hill, has put together three straight 8-3 campaigns.
The Bombers won the first seven games last season before a late stumble which included losses to nationally-ranked Union College and to Washington & Jefferson in the ECAC ASA S. Bushnell Bowl. However, they defeated rival SUNY Cortland to keep Swanstrom unbeaten in Cortaca Jug clashes.
Fabi is excited about the future of football at Ithaca.
"Great things," he said. "Only great things to come, especially from him building up that team from when he got there ... and they played a competitive game every game, so I expect nothing but the best."
Fabi, who also saw action in the Indians' offensive scheme as a running back, applauded his coaches, family and friends for their support through the years.
He praised Virkler and the rest of the Owego staff for guiding him along the way.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," he said. "They believed in me, even when I had some injuries, and I thought I was having a bad game. After the game, they all told me, 'listen, if we didn't have you this wouldn't have happened, etc., etc. They're better people than they are coaches."
The Ithaca coaching staff helped Fabi "seal the deal" when it came time to select where he would continue his education and football career.
"It was the coaches," he said. "They convinced me. It's a great atmosphere there. He (Swanstrom) was the only head coach that came down to talk to me personally, and we kind of made a connection through that, then he kept talking to me through text messages. When I went there on my visit, it was a great place and I fell in love, and I didn't have to go on any other visits after that."
Fabi also looked at other institutions with Wilkes University and Utica College being his second and third choices, respectively.
He will study Business and Ithaca is one of the top business schools in the country.
IN PHOTO 1: Gio Fabi signs his National Letter of Intent as his mother, Nikki, looks on. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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