LAS VEGAS – When you come from a program like Pitt that’s produced so many quality pros over the years, it’s only natural to feel a sense of confidence that you’re as prepared as possible.
This is something Habakkuk Baldonado clearly believes as he continues the journey that he hopes takes him to the NFL. And Baldonado’s experience at the Shrine Bowl has provided a sense of confirmation of this belief too.
“I think Pitt is one of the best schools in terms of this. Coach Duzz (Pat Narduzzi) and Coach (Charlie) Partridge love to say that we act like we’re professionals. So, everything we do is just like the pros. So, the way we approach meetings, the way we study the game, meals, everything that goes in,” Baldonado detailed while being interviewed by Mike Asti live in Las Vegas at the East-West Shrine Bowl, a week’s worth of practice and a game that allows the best college players to soak up knowledge from each other, as well as NFL coaches and gauge their game in comparison of their peers and where it needs to be to achieve success in the NFL.
It’s not just about how Pitt taught him how to be a pro in college but about being able to use the current Pitt alumni as resources. “People like Patrick Jones or Rashad Weaver. I talk to them all the time,” Baldonado said, then including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Pitt great Kenny Pickett in the mix of established NFL players he communicates with.
Even though Baldonado feels as prepared as possible, no player will be able to know what the NFL is like until he gets there. But Baldonado may have a leg up on dealing with a culture shock situation. After being born and raised in Rome, Italy, Baldonado moved to the United States in 2017 to attend high school in Florida and send himself on a path that will likely land him in the NFL. Not only was Baldonado tasked with incorporating his athletic abilities into the game of football in his only high school season at Clearwater Academy International in Clearwater, Florida, but he was also having to transition to life in America.
Baldonado acclimated to the American culture, which included learning a new language, one he speaks fluently now, and also showed skills on the field that led to receiving the attention of a major program, especially one with a long history of churning out NFL talent in Pitt.
Fast forward to 2023, and he has his stellar college career behind him and the promising possibility of more football ahead. So, as he continues his improbable journey, Baldonado has already proved he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to no matter what kind of odds are against him. Now imagine what will happen when he goes after a goal while fully prepared.