BUFFALO, N.Y--Syracuse and Akron wanted him. Notre Dame and North Carolina watched him.
But who signed him? The University at Buffalo.
UB quarterback Joe Licata drew plenty of interest from Football Bowl Subdivision schools during his four years running Williamsville South's offense, but the quarterback wanted to stay home where he could give back to his community.
And today his deeds were recognized after being nominated to the 2014 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which is the most prestigious off-the-field honor in college football.
"Being from here makes me want to give back," said Licata, a junior. "It's different for me being from here. I have a special connection with my hometown and it's driven me to give back."
The AFCA recognizes a group of college football players who have made a commitment to enriching the lives of others while contributing to the greater good of their communities.
Licata spoke recently at Williamsville's Forest Elementary, Williamsville South Basketball Camp and at St. Mary's. Licata was also a standout hoops player for the Billies.
"We have a 'Bulls in the Community' program that has signup sheets in the locker room," he said. "There are different programs and events. I like to do things for Williamsville; especially being from there, and the Williamsville schools. I like to get back there."
Licata played four years on the Williamsville South varsity football team under coach Kraig Kurzanski. Players looked up to him so much that Kurzanski named him team captain before his junior year.
"He is a very humble guy," Kurzanski said. "He loves his family and friends. It's good to see people like him do well."
Licata held a 92 average while in high school. His father is a principal at Starpoint High School, so he wasn't going to get away with much. But he often went way out of his way for others.
Kurzanksi said there was a young autistic boy at Williamsville South that other students picked on and harassed. Licata and teammate Phil Stasiak protected the boy and took care of him. To others, that stood out more than anything he did on the football field. It set an example.
The 21-year-old does plenty more at UB. He volunteers his time sending off and welcoming home members of the U.S. Air Force as a "Pease Greeter" at Portsmouth International Airport, serves as co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and assists in the UNH White Ribbon Campaign to help end violence against women on campus. He is one of 182 football players nominated from schools across the country.
"Anytime you're recognized it's a cool thing," Licata said. "Last year, Fred Lee was nominated and he was extremely honored. I think it speaks to my family and the upbringing by my parents, who taught me to try to give back."
The Bulls went 8-5 in 2013 and missed out on playing for the Mid American Conference Championship after a home loss to Bowling Green. Licata had a productive season as a sophomore, throwing for 2,824 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. He enters his third year as quarterback after starting the last few games of his redshirt freshman season in 2012.
Football analysts have said Licata has the right tools, and if he continues to improve, he may be considered by NFL scouts.
Licata turned down bigger and more historic football programs for a chance to lead the UB Bulls to prominence. He has no doubt he made the right choice.
"I think we have a good chance to be playing Dec. 5 in Detroit," he said. "That is the ultimate goal – to be playing at Ford Field on Dec. 5 in the (Mid American Conference) Championship."
The Bulls quest for the MAC title begins Aug. 30 at home against Duquesne.
Licata now finds himself in an exclusive club. Past members of the Allstate Good Works Team include Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, and Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Tim Tebow.
Licata had plenty of options to play at the next level while he was in high school. But he said he made an easy decision to stay home so he could play down the road from his family.
"Wonderful guy," Kurzanski said. "He's a great friend to his friends, and a great son to his parents."