ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Brett McLean loves to tell the story about Zach Musulli's rise to an all-Ohio kicker.
Musilli grew up as a soccer player and at the urging of his friend, Abbey Maroon, who knew the Devils' football team was in dire need of a placekicker, decided to talk to McLean about possibly playing football.
McLean was on board, so Musilli decided to give it a shot.
From there, the rest is history.
"We're blessed to have had Zach walk in when he did," McLean said. "I give Abbey a lot of the credit there because he was the chief recruiter in getting him to come out."
It not only worked out for the Red Devils, but it's also paid dividends for Musilli.
In three short years, Musilli went from unsure about playing to signing his National Letter of Intent to continue his kicking and academic careers at West Liberty University in the fall.
"Once I started playing and getting better, I made it a goal to try to play at the next level," Musilli said after a brief ceremony Wednesday at St. Clairsville High School.
Musilli was impressed by the Hilltoppers' overall program and also the West Liberty business program, which he plans to enter to study accounting.
"They have great coaches and great facilities," Musilli said. "Those things and the academic side were very important for me."
Musilli enjoyed a brilliant senior season for the Red Devils, earning all-Ohio accolades as well as a host of other honors. Musilli connected on 45 point after touchdown kicks and drilled five field goals. He was the first-team all-Ohio kicker in Division V.
"Zach's made a lot of special kicks, scored a lot of points and has been a huge contributor for us the last three years," McLean said. "It's a great story and on top of the football aspect, he's a great kid, great student and comes from a really good family. He deserves everything he's received."
As a sophomore, Musilli connected on a game-winning, walk-off field goal to lift the Red Devils to an opening-round playoff win against Chesapeake. He was also the team's primary kicker during its run to the Division IV state title game in 2012.
Musilli has also been chosen for South squad for the Ohio North-South All-Star Game, which will be held in April at Dayton's Welcome Stadium.
"I didn't envision any of this when I started playing," Musilli said. "It's all been a big surprise, but I am definitely excited about it."
The work toward becoming the Hilltoppers' kicker is already well under way for Musilli. He's preparing for the collegiate adjustments of tighter hash marks as well as kicking the ball off the turf, compared to a tee that high school kickers utilize.
"I'm hitting the weightroom, getting stronger and once the weather breaks, I'll get out on the field start kicking again," Musilli said. "I'll have to move my plant foot up a little bit more to get under the ball to adjust to kicking off the ground."
McLean gave a lot of credit for Musilli's development to special teams coach Mike "Chops" Jacob.
"Coach Chops works with him on individual technique day in and day out and he really motivated him to work all through practices," McLean said. "Zach came to every workout, every lift, every conditioning and stayed at practice from start to finish and worked on technique."
Musilli is the son of Henry and Mary Lynn Musilli.