- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ALLEGHENY, PA. (AP) - When Mike Caputo transferred to West Allegheny from a rival school before his junior year, he was joining a team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs the prior season.

The Indians promptly won a district Class AAA title and made a state semifinal appearance.

As much as Caputo’s 2,615 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns had to do with that, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said the 6-foot-1 1/2, 205-pound running back/linebacker’s intangibles were just as instrumental in the team’s turnaround.

“One of his best qualities is raising the level of play and raising expectations,” Palko said. “He’s gotten the kids to buy into things and believe in things they didn’t before.”

Caputo said he wants to try to get everyone to buy into becoming a team and working toward accomplishing the same goal.

Caputo, on The Associated Press East Region 25 list of top recruits, chose Wisconsin over Ohio State, Penn State and Pitt. He was recruited as an athlete and was told he will ultimately play at strong safety. Initially, Caputo’s skills lend themselves as an ideal special teams player.

The Badgers, No. 12 in the Top 25 preseason poll, are getting a back who has developed a reputation as a heady player with a toughness that allows him to play bigger than his size.

“I like competition; I like seeing how far I can go,” Caputo said. “If somebody’s doing something I think I can do myself, I want to go out and do that. I want to go see how fast I can do that, how high I can jump. I just like to compete.”

Palko gushed over the way Caputo conducts himself off the field, mentioning his work with the Special Olympics, for example. On the field, it’d be hard to top his junior season be it the district title or the run at 3,000 rushing yards.

“The neatest thing about him is it’s not about him; it’s just about West Allegheny,” Palko said. “He isn’t worried about the individual stuff he knows that will take care of itself. When you talk about a kid off the field, he’s very special. Now you’re talking about the total package. It’s kind of cool to be around.”