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Pitt

Born in Italy, Baldonado signs with Pitt

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 11:39 a.m.

Welcome to the family, @abba1999 !! #L1TS8URGH #H2P pic.twitter.com/ZoeYPzAtbj

— Pat Narduzzi(@CoachDuzzPittFB) February 7, 2018

Habakkuk Baldonado probably would have been sold on Pitt without the trip to an Italian market in the Strip District, but it was a nice touch during his recruiting visit, anyway."That was pretty cool," said the Italian-born Baldonado, who signed his letter of intent Wednesday.

Baldonado, 18, lived in Italy for the first 17 years of his life before matriculating to Clearwater (Fla.) Academy International to play football.It was a season Clearwater Academy coach Jesse Chinchnar won't soon forget. Baldonado, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, recorded 30 1/2 sacks in 13 games.

"He was a sack machine," said Chinchar, who added that Baldonado had six in one game. "He got off the ball like nobody's business."

"Rushing the passer. That's my favorite thing," said Baldonado, who goes by the first name of Haba.

He is Clearwater Academy's first Division 1 recruit in only its second season of 11-man football. Before that, the school played the eight-man version.

Chinchar said there's more to Baldonado than his size, strength and quickness.

"He has an infectious passion for the game," Chinchar said. "Even though he was only here one year, he became a leader on the team."

Baldonado said living in the U.S. was "a totally new experience, like another world."

He said chose Pitt for the normal things -- academics and football -- but he also developed a good relationship with Narduzzi and assistants Rob Harley and Charlie Partridge. He chose Pitt over offers from Central Florida and Michigan State.

Asked about his hopes to play as a freshman, Baldonado said, "Every school will tell you the same thing: I have to deserve it. They are not scared about playing freshmen, but it's hard to play as a true freshman."

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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