Trailing 17-14 in the waning seconds of their home game against Pitt, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons conjured up a game-winning drive capped by a 15-yard dagger to the heart of the Panthers slung by a third-string quarterback turned local legend.
They know who he is in Winston-Salem, but many people across the nation are asking, who the hell is Santino Marucci?
Who is Santino Marucci?
Marucci is the Wake Forest third-string quarterback who captured the hearts of Demon Deacons fans and the attention of the nation with his 15-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Hite with just seven seconds left on the clock to beat Pitt.
The late-game heroics gave Wake Forest a much-needed win in Week 8 of the 2023 college football season. But there’s much more to the story than that.
Marucci got his first-ever start at the college level after Wake Forest starting quarterback — and heir apparent to Sam Hartman — Mitch Griffis was ruled out just 20 minutes before the game.
On short notice, and having previously played just six snaps in his Demon Deacons career, the backup to the back up — injured Michael Kern — stepped in and stepped up for his team.
While the story of his game-winning drive will be forever etched into Wake Forest folklore, Marucci is no stranger to the big-game situation.
His game time for the Demon Deacons might have been minimal for the past two seasons, but he was a highly-regarded and experienced high-school quarterback in the talent-rich and competitive state of Florida.
A three-year starter for Bartram Trail, Marucci was a three-time All-County honoree who also attracted All-State attention ahead of a senior season where he led his team to the District Championship.
During his high school career, he totaled over 6,500 yards with 82 touchdowns, showcasing athletic potential with almost 1,500 rushing yards. He also played baseball and wrestled as a true multi-sport competitor with athletic upside, adding further value to his strong-armed capability at the quarterback position.
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Those performances caught the eyes of college scouts and evaluation sites, with 247 Sports making him a three-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class who was viewed as a top 100 quarterback in the nation. He held offers from the Big Ten (Nebraska) and SEC (Kentucky) but opted for Wake Forest.
“We run a spread offense at Benjamin and it correlates very well with Wake Forest,” Marucci explained his commitment back in 2020.
“It’s up-tempo, get the ball out quick and I fit really well into that system. Coach Clawson was really excited. When I went up there for their summer camp he said I fit that system very well and if it were to come to that, they would love to have me.”
Since arriving in Winston-Salem, Marucci hasn’t had much in the way of opportunity to showcase his fit in the Wake Forest offense. He took minimal snaps against Norfolk State as a true freshman and has sat patiently behind Sam Hartman and Griffis for the best part of two and a half years.
When his opportunity arrived at short notice, he took it with aplomb. Sure, there were moments he’d like back from his first start, but Marucci delivered with the game on the line, showcasing clutch capability for a team that needed the win.
“He did great, he was the winning quarterback,” Wake Forest Dave Clawson said of Marucci this last week. “The job of the quarterback is to win the game and we’re limited. We had to scale down the offense, not because he’s not capable, but because of the limited reps.”
While he receives his 15 minutes of fame in the Wake Forest spotlight and waits on whether Griffis will return for the Demon Deacons’ clash with high-flying FSU, it’s worth pointing out that Marucci is from footballing bloodlines.
The Wake Forest quarterback’s father is former Miami Hurricanes fullback Jason Marucci, who scored a touchdown as a member of the 1991 national championship-winning team. Sadly for the Marucci’s — and storytellers everywhere — Miami doesn’t feature on the Demon Deacons remaining schedule.