Niederberger, Pettinato sign Division 1 letters |

Niederberger, Pettinato sign Division 1 letters

Eric Niederberger remembers watching fellow Miners like Taylor Dever and Zach Masch realize the dream of playing Division I football by signing their names on the dotted line of a national letter of intent.

On Wednesday morning, in front of fellow and future NU football players, Niederberger and senior teammate Dan Pettinato joined what’s quickly becoming a lengthy list of Miners to offer their autograph on national signing day.

Niederberger signed to play with the Rams of Colorado State University, while Pettinato officially declared he’ll play for the Pac-10’s Arizona Wildcats.

“When I think of Nevada Union greats, I never thought of myself in there with them,” Niederberger said. “Guys like James Brindley, the Herrera brothers, Andrew Jackson, Spencer Havner and all of those guys everybody talks a lot about.

“I’ve been in that spot where I’ve looked up to those guys and now, I guess, I’m in that spot where kids maybe are looking at me like that.”

Niederberger, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 215-pound linebacker, totaled 107 tackles, including 68 solo stops, and racked up nine sacks while helping lead NU to the fourth football section championship in school history. He also rushed for 550 yards and eight touchdowns for the Miners.

But, he said, he’s pretty sure his offensive days are numbered.

“They’ll mostly have me at linebacker,” he said. “I was listening to Coach (Steve Fairchild), as they were talking about each guy, and when he was talking about me he said he considers me a strong safety/linebacker hybrid. So I know I’ll be playing somewhere along those lines.”

Colorado State’s recruiting class of 2010 is the highest-ranked CSU group since began ranking team classes nearly a decade ago.

“I was on the web site, 2010 Ram recruiting zone or whatever it is, checking out a lot of guys I’ll be playing with,” Niederberger said. “It said it’s one of the best classes Colorado State has ever had, so I’m excited about it.”

Pettinato, a 6-4, 235-pound defensive end recruit, said he also expects to have seen the last of his action on the offensive side of the ball. Even though he caught 35 passes for 700 yards and eight touchdowns, Pettinato is primarily a defensive end when it comes to what Arizona coach Mike Stoops has in store for him.

“The (Arizona) defensive end coach told me that the tight ends coach always wants to steal the defensive ends,” Pettinato said. “So he said he hadn’t shown him my offensive highlights.”

But there were plenty on the defensive side of the ball, as well. Pettinato, who is currently one of the leading scorers for Nevada Union’s varsity boys basketball team, racked up 94 tackles and six quarterback sacks at defensive end.

Though he has family connections in Tucson, where his grandmother resides, he said his goal was to play for a Pac-10 school.

“That was my main goal from the very beginning,” he said. “I didn’t mind what school in the Pac-10, but I’m glad it ended up being Arizona and with my family.”

Pettinato said he was happy to see so many Miner teammates, and those who will be playing on Friday nights next fall, on hand for signing day in the Ali Gymnasium foyer Wednesday.

“That was awesome,” he said. “I like all the support and the guys were really happy for me.”

And perhaps they are now hoping to follow in his – and Niederberger’s – footsteps.

“Hopefully those guys were thinking ‘If they can do it, why not me?'” Niederberger said. “I think that’s the attitude to have.

“I thought it was possible for me and, sure enough, it is.”

Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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