The Santacaterina family room can grow as crowded as the family’s name appears on the back of a jersey if everyone is home together, as was the case during a family heart-to-heart Monday night.
The subject was the scholarship offer the Northern Illinois football program extended Geneva junior quarterback Daniel Santacaterina last week, and while Daniel’s parents and three sisters all took part, the words and presence of his big brother, Michael, loomed especially large.
A soon-to-be fifth-year senior linebacker in NIU's program, Michael Santacaterina speaks glowingly about his experience with the Huskies, and Daniel decided joining the Huskies sounded enticing enough that there was no sense waiting. The lengthy family chat Monday night turned into a verbal commitment to NIU coach Rod Carey on Tuesday morning.
"My brother just got home [from the spring semester] and it was just a good time to start evaluating the decision," Daniel Santacaterina said. "It didn't take long. I made another call to [former NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish], talked to him, and he really assured me it was a good decision and thought that's where I should be. It kind of fell into place."
The 6-foot-2, 193-pound Santacaterina cut off his recruitment in the relatively early stages, but said NIU's ascent in recent years, the school's proximity and the chance to build off his brother's experience overshadowed any curiosity about what other schools might eventually offer scholarships.
"I probably wouldn't even be as serious about football if it wasn't for [Michael], just watching him growing up," Santacaterina said. "It's perfect that I'm following in his footsteps again at NIU."
Santacaterina threw for 2,266 yards during his breakout junior season, firing 27 touchdown passes along with 11 interceptions. He rushed for 253 yards in leading the Vikings to the IHSA Class 7A playoffs.
That followed a sophomore season in which Santacaterina missed most of the year with a broken collarbone.
Santacaterina succeeded former Geneva standout QB Matt Williams, who also committed to Northern Illinois but since has shifted his athletic focus to baseball.
In addition to Williams and Michael Santacaterina, Daniel Santacaterina joins other recent Vikings to commit to NIU football such as Pat Schiller and Frank Boenzi as the pipeline between Geneva – coached by former Huskies football player Rob Wicinski – and NIU continues to widen.
Santacaterina said his chat at school Tuesday morning with Wicinski basically closed the deliberations.
"He's also one of the people that are kind of molding me and have a big impact on my life and I just kind of needed to get the OK from him," Santacaterina said. "I thought it wouldn't be right if I didn't. I needed the OK from him and he's all in, so after that I called [Carey], and that's how it went down."
The quarterback position is marquee everywhere but comes with especially high standards these days at NIU, where Harnish and Jordan Lynch have helped the Huskies become a nationally known quantity in recent seasons.
Santacaterina said elevated expectations now that he's Division I-bound won't be a concern as he gears up for his senior season at Geneva.
“I don’t think it’ll affect me,” Santacaterina said. “I put enough pressure on myself and I have enough goals, I’m not going to worry about that at all, really.”