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‘Big impact’ for Canarsie RB

When he wasn’t on a football field growing up, nothing could tear a young Steven Rene away from his television set Saturday afternoons. He tuned it to all the major conference college football games, but there was one that stood out in particular.

“I always dreamed about playing in the Big East,” Rene said.

The Canarsie running back⁄return specialist doesn’t have to dream anymore.

One day after taking an unofficial visit to Syracuse, the rising senior verbally commited there Wednesday, becoming new coach Doug Marrone’s second impact New York City recruit, the other being Port Richmond’s Torian Phillips.

Rene picked the Orange over Temple, Rutgers, Boston College, Hofstra and Pittsburgh. A 5−foot−8, 170−pound playmaker, Rene talked with Phillips about the recently troubled program, which was 10−37 the last four years under former coach Greg Robinson, the day before his commitment.

“I’m pretty excited for him,” Phillips said. “People think New York City is only good for basketball. We’re showing we can play some ball, too.”

Outside of Hofstra, the other programs wanted to see more of Rene – preferably in a scouting camp on school grounds – before offering a scholarship. Syracuse didn’t.

His film and sterling showing at the Rivals.com camp in Philadelphia was enough for them.

“They had faith in me,” he said.

Rene, 18, said he felt at home during his visit, when he toured the campus and met the entire coaching staff. He particularly felt a bond with new coach Doug Marrone, a Bronx native who played for Lehman HS.

The two talked about the hurdles a football standout from the city has to overcome, the doubts and sideways looks. Marrone, who was an offensive lineman for the Orange and most recently served as the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, talked about the struggles he’s faced in landing a head−coaching gig.

“He’s been through a lot of stuff I can relate to,” Rene said.

Rene said he made up his decision after visiting the athletic building. Pictures of NFL players such as Dwight Freeney, Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison hang in the hallways. The historical significance overwhelmed him.

“That really got my attention,” he said. “Seeing all that, I knew the place was for me.”

Syracuse recruited Rene as a kick and punt returner, but will also take a look at him in the offensive or defensive backfield. Canarsie coach Mike Camardese called Rene up to the varsity at the tail end of his freshman season. He emerged as a sophomore and became one of the top backs in the city last winter, running for 1,139 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass and had 35 tackles and three interceptions as a strong safety.

“Once he gets his hands on the ball, he’s a threat,” Camardese said. “Each play he goes all out. He only knows one speed. … He’s the type of kid who knows what has to get done and does it. He’s always in the weight room, always trying to improve as a player.

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