WATSON – Live Oak’s Sal Palermo refers to himself as a “gunslinger”, a quarterback with a preference for throwing the ball.
The Eagles triple-option quarterback believes he hit the lottery when it came to finding a collegiate home.
Palermo, a two-year starter, signed with Louisiana College and teammate Blake Robinson, a linebacker, accepted a preferred walk-on opportunity from McNeese State during a ceremony Wednesday at the school’s gymnasium.
“I like to it air out,” Palermo said. “That’s kind of what they do.”
Robinson played a big role in the success of Live Oak’s defense, a two-year starter that registered 93 tackles with four quarterback sacks, seven quarterback hurries, forced a fumble and had an interception.
There were some small-school offers, Robinson said, but once McNeese State hired new coach Sterlin Gilbert in December the Cowboys increased their interest in Robinson.
Following a recent visit to the school’s campus in Lake Charles, Robinson was ready to join the Cowboys’ program.
“I always liked McNeese but didn’t get any interest from the old coaching staff,” said Robinson, an All-Parish selection and second team All-District 4-5A choice. “I started to build a relationship with the new staff and really enjoyed my visit.
“I really liked it, it felt like they really cared for you,” Robinson said. “I liked the family atmosphere. They had nice facilities and great coaches. I feel like they’re going to do big things coming up. That’s where I wanted to be.”
Robinson had a pretty good reference point to confer with before selecting McNeese State.
Teammate Eli Johnson, who signed with McNeese in December, was a good sounding board for Robinson, who acknowledged the two friends wanted to play their college football together.
“He’s one of my best friends, so it helped in my decision to have someone there,” Robinson said of Johnson, a strong safety. “He talked to me about it but didn’t want to sway my decision too much. He always wanted me to go there from the beginning with him.
“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to play college football and we both had the same dreams,” Robinson said. “We talked about going to the same place and we had the opportunity and it kind of fell into place.”
Palermo recalls having similar aspirations once he reached high school.
“When you’re little, you always think of something like this,” he said. “It seems simple: you play high school and you play college and it seems easy. As you become older it becomes more realistic that it’s not simple.
“When I started high school, it was in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t something I thought about a whole lot,” he said. “As I became older and got into my junior year it became more realistic and gave me something to work for. Going through all of that and making it to this day is something special.”
Despite the style of run-oriented offense Palermo operated at Live Oak, he doesn’t anticipate a harsh transition to LC’s up-tempo brand that produced 341 yards of offense – including 262 through the air.
“There are a lot of RPOs,” Palermo said of run-pass option plays. “You can throw it a lot and take a lot of deep shots and throw it all over the yard. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Palermo, an honorable mention All-District 4-5A selection, completed 73 of 168 passes for 1,121 yards with nine interceptions in 2018. He helped Live Oak to its fourth consecutive playoff berth, falling in the first round of the playoffs, a year after quarterbacking the Eagles to their first appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
LC had four quarterbacks combine to pass for 2,625 yards and 26 touchdowns in a 6-4 season.
“The starter from last year is gone, so there is an opening,” Palermo said. “I have a chance of coming in and competing right away. Hopefully I can do great in fall camp and win the job. Starting for four years is the goal.”