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Drew Viotto's Big Move
You can't start talking about EMU's 2023 recruiting class without mentioning "The Canadian Cannon".
Welcome to The Ypsilanti Eleven! May is for recruiting towards the future. As the summer recruiting cycle begins to heat up, Eastern Michigan finds itself in a good spot with a future HS quarterback all lined up to join the program next spring.
His name’s Drew Viotto, but he also has a great nickname that you might want to call him by as well. Viotto was the first commit to join EMU’s 2023 signing class in February, and was even offered a scholarship before he took his first varsity snaps.
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EMU Football Recruiting Update
“The Canadian Cannon”
Every summer is a busy one for recruiting, and this year’s circuit will begin with Eastern Michigan already having three commits to its program for the 2023 signing class. This class, which consists of one quarterback and two defensive players, was kicked off by a very early commitment out of a quarterback with a ton of upside.
Drew Viotto, currently rated as a 3-star QB by 247sports composite and ranked #19 by MLive’s recent list of top 50 recruits in the state of Michigan, is a big quarterback with a big nickname — “The Canadian Cannon.” It was the nickname he grew into at the age of 14 but didn’t really get to prove it on the field until he was 17.
Viotto was the first of EMU’s three-man class to commit to the team in February, and has made multiple trips to Ypsilanti since to meet more of his future teammates. He’s been to a few practices over the spring season, and even had his visiting grandfather visit the campus.
“I've just been trying to get up there and get around the players,” Viotto told me. “I try to meet 2-3 new players each practice to try to get to know the guys before I actually go up there.”
Class of 2023 Commits
QB, Drew Viotto (Walled Lake Western / Walled Lake, Mich.)
DL, Malik Tullis (Creekside / Fairburn, Ga.)
S, Jaivian Norman (Springfield / Springfield, Ohio)
With the chance to play in fifth grade back in his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Viotto enjoyed the game enough to figure out that he wanted to play it long-term. He was serious about getting serious about his game, and he knew he needed help. A tip from another Ontario QB, Christian Veilleux (currently a redshirt-freshman at Penn State), sent Viotto down to see coach Donovan Dooley, a Midwest QB coach and owner of QBU — which helps improve the talents of quarterbacks across Michigan and abroad. Veilleux trained with Victor Tedondo at the Gridiron Academy in Canada, which has served as a pipeline for QBU.
You’re that serious? Coach Dooley’s your guy.
Viotto knew he wanted to play football at the college level, and that sent him and his father on the road to figure out how to make this dream happen. The car rides from home to southeast Michigan to receive world-class coaching would last four and a half hours, but those trips, which would happen a couple times a month, would all be worth it.
“When Drew came over, he was a lump of clay,” Dooley laughed over the phone. “One thing you can't teach in football is size… His laser-focus and ability to retain information was very important for me, and it was intriguing. I just told him the more time we spend together, the more I think we can make something work.”
“Coach Dooley saw the size factor for my age,” Viotto said. “He saw how he was teaching me defenses and how I picked that up quickly. He saw potential in my footwork and in the way I was throwing the ball. He saw potential in all of that. And when I moved, we took it to a whole new level of training.
“(The move) was for my football career. Me and my dad were driving back and forth a couple of times a month, and coach Dooley saw some potential in me. So I said, 'Coach, I want to play college football, that's my goal.' He said 'If you want to play, you've got to move down to Michigan and play down here.'
“So, we made the move.”
Learn by doing
We’re talking quarterbacks here, which means there’s going to be plenty of play-drawing involved with this position. Getting better and faster (and better at being faster) at whiteboarding plays is obviously a huge part of the QBU curriculum. Play fast from the neck-up. Draw things up, map out scenarios, and, as Dooley put it, be the ultimate processor.
This is where Viotto would truly get in his bag. There’s a certain rush you get when you learn something in a classroom, then you take that knowledge and apply it to real-life. Viotto loved the learning process, and how he understood more about what he was throwing against with each instruction.
“At first, I knew what to do from talking about it on a whiteboard and a dry-erase marker, but the first time I really started liking (football) more was when I was out on the field and what I did on the board translated, and I knew what the defenses were going to do before they did it,” Viotto said.” And that was just like, it made me study even harder and talk to coach Dooley even more about coverages.”
Said Dooley, “Drew’s ability to check protections, hots, alerts, pre-snap, post-snap, his ability to understand coverage, manipulate coverage, and recognize it fast has become one of his biggest strengths. We've been working at it since Day 1. And now it's just kind of the norm for him, and that's the best part about his game.”
The sophomore and recruiting circuit
The summer of eighth grade (2018), Viotto and his dad packed up and moved down to Walled Lake, Mich. with plans for mom and his younger sister to join later (this year). Viotto would get acclimated with American football with other Americans, and he’d be going into ninth grade already knowing the playbook and the receivers he’d have to throw to.
Every time Viotto touched a football to throw to some varsity-level players, the still-JV QB with an awesome nickname to still grow into — The Canadian Cannon — hit the record button. If he was going to get the opportunity to throw to an older guy, he was going to let coaches know that, yeah, he can hang too.
February of 2019 was after Viotto’s first JV season at Walled Lake was when he received his first offer, from Central Michigan.
Viotto remembers the feeling of getting that first offer.
“It was an early offer and that put things into perspective,” the quarterback said. “It was tough being away from my mom and sister, and getting that [offer] made me work that much harder because it made me realize that I could really do that, and I could really go somewhere with football.”
Eastern Michigan didn’t come into the picture until that summer. More accurately, Drew Viotto entered head coach Chris Creighton and Mike Piatkowski’s frame at the Ferris State megacamp in early June of 2019 when the rising sophomore went up and introduced himself. He impressed them that day, and would impress the coaches at a handful of other camps before finally being invited to one of EMU’s camps in 2021. After visiting Ypsilanti and throwing well in front of Creighton and his staff just one more time, Viotto received his EMU offer to go along with his other offers from CMU, Syracuse, and Bowling Green. Marshall, Kent State, Maryland, and Buffalo would all also offer Viotto.
On Feb. 4, Viotto finally decided to make a public decision and choose EMU as his future college. Viotto was the first prospect to commit to EMU for the 2023 recruiting cycle.
Said Viotto, “Coach Creighton said to me, 'Drew, with you, we feel like we have a really good chance to win a MAC championship.’ So that's my only goal, is to win as much as I can, and to bring them MAC championships.”
“Obviously I was super excited for the decision. I felt like it was a great decision for me… My first time ever visiting there before I committed, it just felt like family. Like it was all just one big family there. It just felt like one, big brotherhood, and I got to talking to coach Creighton and coach Pike more as they came to my school, and I felt like it was just the best decision for me to commit.”
“The biggest thing I said is that you want to go where you're loved,” Dooley told me when asked about his involvement in helping guys like Viotto make their college choice. “Drew has NFL aspirations, but he also wants to win a title. Drew's a winner at the end of the day. You see so many kids have dream schools, right? But we kind of look at the game a little bit differently. Like I always tell my guys: go where you're loved, not liked.”
Dooley, a 2002 graduate of Detroit St. Martin dePorres, can’t remember watching an EMU game growing up. It wasn’t the program that it is now, and the culture shift on and off the field is notable. The talent’s better. The games are tighter. The teams are much more unified. With Creighton’s leadership, EMU’s brand of football has only improved, and the coach’s understanding of both how to establish a culture and how to coach good football is how the team’s had its recent success.
And as far as coaching quarterbacks —Creighton’s specialty as well — Dooley gave his verbal nod of approval.
“Just hearing from conversations, he definitely understands X's and O's and definitely understands how to council quarterbacks. What that means is giving them lay-ups, having them have early wins, chain-movers, building confidence in quarterbacks. I think his tutelage and his experiences of what he's done over the years can definitely help Drew and cultivate his skillset, and continue to make his weakness a strength,” Dooley said.
“I think he's doing a great job. I look for coaches that can develop, a lot of guys look for talent, but I also look for a guy that can develop skill. That's two different things, and I think coach Creighton can do that.”
Viotto got his first shot to start at the varsity level after the offers started to come in from EMU, et al. He had to bide his time behind Zach Trainor, who ended up signing with Eastern Illinois out of high school (now at Southwestern Oklahoma State).
When his time finally did come, Viotto was ready. As a junior, Viotto threw for 2,126 yards, scored 22 touchdowns, and completed over 70% of his throws, leading Walled Lake to a 7-4 record. Walled Lake’s a really successful program that hasn’t seen a losing record since 2009.
Walled Lake is loaded with talent, especially with decorated classmate RB Darius Taylor (Minnesota commit) doing damage in the same offense. Taylor is the state’s #8 ranked player by MLive’s aforementioned top-50 list, and #13 by 247sports composite.
“This year my goal is to just show off my athletic ability more,” Viotto said. “Last year, I was more of a pocket guy. It was my first varsity year, so I was just feeling comfortable in the pocket and I wasn't really showing off my athletic ability, so that's my plan this year. We've got our very good running back this year and we plan on leading our team to a state championship.”
After Viotto’s senior campaign ends, he’ll be an early graduate and join the Eagles in time for the 2023 spring season.