WVU football: Landi has filled many roles while with Bulls
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Evan Landi has played a little quarterback during his career at South Florida, started an entire season at wide receiver and is now a tight end - not exactly the desired path a player hopes to travel when he first walks on a college campus.
For sure, things could be different. Landi was actually a talented and coveted high school hockey player in Coral Springs, Fla.
"I think I was pretty solid," he said.
So, too, did the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League, one of the three junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League.
The Attack invited Landi to Ontario for a tryout during an open week in his senior football season
"It was three or four days long and I thought I played pretty well," Landi said. "When it was done, they said, 'We have a spot for you.' "
Professional hockey was never the goal, not in Florida and not when he started playing in a roller hockey league as a kid and graduated to ice hockey when he was 8 years old. Yet there it was, a chance to play hockey and get paid for it.
"My heart was in football," he said. "My parents were very open to the hockey thing and they saw it as something not many kids from Florida get a chance to do. But football was something I always wanted to do."
Landi chose college, like his father, Michael, who was a receiver at Central Florida, and his mother, Dee, who played basketball for the Golden Knights. His sister, Justine, was an All-Big East volleyball player at Louisville.
Landi picked the Bulls over offers from Wisconsin and South Carolina and was recruited there by current West Virginia running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Landi enters Thursday's 8 p.m. game against WVU as the starting tight end, but he's done a list of things to help the Bulls through the years.
"It doesn't matter what title I get," he said. "I just want to be known as someone who helped his team. I've done a lot, pretty much whatever the need and we have had some needs the past couple years. I just want to play."
He has, and in a variety of ways. Landi has 25 receptions this season for 230 yards and a touchdown - the game-winner in the season opener at Notre Dame.
A year ago he started all 13 games and was second on the team with 28 catches, 390 yards and two scores.
In 2008, he split time in a reserve role as a receiver and a Wildcat quarterback.
"He's a football player," Coach Skip Holtz said. "He's been invaluable, not just because of his athleticism, but because of his mindset as a leader."
Landi was recruited as a defensive back and projected as a college safety, but has played no defense in college. He has filled in on special teams at various times, though.
A year ago, the Bulls needed a holder. Landi volunteered and had no trouble.
The Bulls were worried about depth and looking for a backup long snapper. There was Landi once again.
This season, Victor Marc has lost a few fumbles on punt returns. Holtz has asked Landi to simply catch the ball and Landi has obliged and actually returned five.
Holtz continues to go to Landi when the punt figures to go deep into USF territory.
"He's been the utility man for us," Holtz said. "He's played quarterback here, he's been one of our leading receivers and this year he made the move to tight end and he's playing probably 40, 45 snaps a game and he has the same number of catches. He's a leader. He shows up to work every day."
He's been there the last two weeks when starting quarterback B.J. Daniels has been bothered by a bruised right shoulder. Daniels couldn't play in Saturday's loss to Louisville and is questionable for Thursday's game.
Bobby Eveld is the backup and he doesn't run nearly as often or as well as Daniels, which robs the Bulls' offense of a key element. Daniels is the team's second-leading rusher. Without lost yardage on sacks, he's gained more yards than anyone else on the team.
The ever-useful Landi played a bit of quarterback as a freshman in 2009. He was 3-for-5 and threw a touchdown and also ran the ball six times. Given his background and his reputation, Landi know his name might come up one day.
"There have been some jokes about it, but nothing has happened," he said. "If something were to happen, I think I could do it. If I could get enough reps in practice, I think I could do it."
It wouldn't be a surprise if he were to be considered. It would instead be a credit to a selfless career.
"I actually take pride in it," he said. "I feel good knowing if there ever was an opening and someone needed to step in that I'm someone people think can do it."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142.