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Cincinnati Reels in First SI99 Commitment in Mario Eugenio

SI99 pass rusher from Tampa picks Cincinnati over Power 5 offers

Accolades are a dime a dozen these days for Cincinnati Bearcats football. 

The program is in position to play in the College Football Playoff for the first time, it's moving on to the Big 12 for a quicker path in years to come and its head coach is a yearly hot name in the coaching carousel. 

Not only is Luke Fickell telling everyone who will listen that he is staying put, it's trickling down to recruiting and that message clinched the pledge of the first SI99 recruit to pick the Bearcats -- Mario Eugenio

The message was conveyed in person last weekend as UC hosted the Tampa (Fla.) Gaither pass rusher for an official visit. He would head back to the Sunshine State as a silent verbal commitment. 

"We were having a conversation, me and my father, with Coach Fickell about what would happen next year," Eugenio told Sports Illustrated. "Will he stay? Is he looking at other programs? Could he leave? After he let us know he's not considering leaving, that money isn't a factor and that he wants to develop his players into young men -- that's what it was all really about. 

"We spoke a little bit more and my parents asked if I had anything to say to him. I looked at coach, he looked at me, and I said, 'well coach, I'm ready to be a Bearcat!'"

The family then shared the news with the rest of Fickell's staff before heading to the airport to travel home.

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"He (Fickell) got hyped," he said. "He got up, gave me a hug and down the hallway we went. Every coach was hyped. 

"It's just gonna set me up. It's not just a three or four year commitment, it's a 40-year commitment that is going to impact my whole life. I'm just very excited and blessed to be in this position."

A one-time Michigan commitment, Eugenio admitted Cincinnati coaches were the most active with him sine before the first big decision was made. Sorting out nearly three-dozen scholarship offers was no small task for the senior, but factors outside of football contributed to the final call.  

"Cincinnati has a 100% graduation rate since Coach Fickell joined the Bearcats," Eugenio said. "It's a beautiful city and fun fact; if you cross the bridge, you're already in Kentucky. I didn't even know that."

Having amassed 38 sacks as a varsity player for the Gaither Cowboys, the 6'3", 240-pound edge talent will cap his prep career at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas in January. Thereafter, he will begin the process of enrolling at UC to begin assimilating within one of college football's most consistent programs. 

"I want Bearcat fans to know they're getting a good one," he said. 
"Someone who is going to get after the quarterback on every single snap."

Eugenio is currently ranked as the nation's No. 71 overall recruit, per the SI99. Among edge defender projections, he sits at No. 6 in the initial player ranking.