AP NEWS

NFL Calitro honored by Hatters

February 22, 2019

DANBURY — The best question posed to Seattle Seahawks linebacker Austin Calitro during a brief exchange Thursday with current Danbury High football players was from a youngster many years away from playing on Friday nights.

“Did you really go to Park Avenue School?,” the fan quizzed in amazement.

Calitro confirmed indeed he is certainly one of their own.

The Danbury native was honored by his high school Thursday as part of a night-long celebration. In addition to speaking with the Hatters, Calitro participated in a reception with family and friends, and signed autographs with students prior to the team’s basketball game against Trumbull.

“It’s definitely cool,” Calitro said. “Growing up I had (former Brookfield and UConn standout) Scott Lutrus as my role model from this area. I’m glad others appreciate it when I can come back here.”

A halftime ceremony capped the evening at center court for one of the top football exports from the school. Calitro’s coach and now Danbury principal Dan Donovan presented him with a Hatters’ jacket, and a Seahawks jersey was given to the school.

The 6-foot, 240-pound Calitro spent brief stints on several NFL squads including the Seahawks, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns after going undrafted in 2017. Just when it looked like his career would go the way of most undrafted free agents, Calitro signed with the Seahawks for a second time last June. He rose up the depth chart during the offseason and preseason, making the final 53-man roster.

“I didn’t really take a step back to realize it during the season, but it all came fast so I didn’t have time to dissect it,” Calitro said. “I was just focused on trying to learn the game plan for that week. It was always next week to me.”

Calitro amassed 45 tackles for the Seahawks last season as he split time between a starter and reserve role. The meteoric rise in such a short span was difficult to process, but knowing where he will be playing this fall is a luxury that isn’t unappreciated.

“It’s good because I don’t have to learn a new playbook or anything, so I’m happy about that,” Calitro said. “I’m training right now, doing some recovery work. I live out in California with my girlfiend, she’s up at law school there.”

Calitro — who was All-FCIAC and All-State before becoming a FCS All-American at Villanova — noted a positive vibe in the weight room through talking to current staff and players.

“I’m just glad to see there’s finally a culture and the family aspect here,” Calitro said. “It’s cool to see them all working together. There are still seniors here who graduated and came back to help, it’s awesome to see.”

Hearing the words of the man who took his own path resonated with future college hopefuls. Hatters junior Jah Joyner has offers from Division I schools and knows a leap from Danbury to the next level is possible.

“That was crazy, watching him on TV and finally seeing an NFL was a dream,” Joyner said. “I’m getting some offers and still have to get better. He told me to believe in myself and that gave me confidence.”

rlacey@bcnnew.com, @ryanlacey11