DOE-mahn-tis VINS-koos koo-CHAR-uh.
That’s what will appear in the pronunciation guide for the next four or five years at Iowa. This one might give radio guys around the Big Ten a stroke.
Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara is a 6-4, 220-pound defensive end from Cypress Bay, Fla. He’s already made ESPN.com’s Big Ten recruiting all-name team.
So, there’s that.
Venckus-Cucchiara also is a full-blooded Lithuanian. He and his mother moved 5,000 miles from their native Klaipeda, Lithuania, to Weston, Fla., when he was 8. He skipped second grade and went right to third. He started playing football when he was 10 as part of a way to help him learn English.
He converted from tight end to defensive end for his senior season. He recorded 85 tackles, with 12 sacks, six fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles, including one returned for a touchdown. He was named to the First Team All-Broward County.
Oh, and he also added 40 pounds between his junior and senior year.
“They like my pass rush and my frame and my motor,” Venckus said when he was being recruited.
DVC might’ve been former D-line coach Rick Kaczenski’s last recruit for the UI. Kaczenski took the D-line position at Nebraska in December. (Will Iowa continue to recruit Florida? If so, who?)
“Iowa is a defensive line paradise, from the strength and conditioning program to the top coaching staff,” he said. “The program is run the right way. They find the talent and just grind away at it. They have a lot of guys who have played on the team who have now gone on to the NFL, so that’s a motivation for me.”
His mom, Violeta Leskyte Cucchiara, is an actress and composer. Most recently, she appeared with James Brolin in the 2010 rock and roll drama, “Angel Camouflaged.” She also composed the score and starred in 2008’s “The Price.”
From ESPN.com: Venckus is a defender with a gladiator type name. In addition to having a seemingly fitting type name as a defensive prospect he is also active and displays he can be a productive player. He has good height, but will need to continue to develop his frame and add size and improve strength. He gets off the ball well. He is a physical kid when taking on blocks and does a good job of bringing and trying to use his hands to create separation. He will battle and can be tough at the point of attack, but needs to watch his pad level and keep improving strength as he displays he can give ground at times in phone situations against bigger blockers. He does a solid job of reading blocks and being able to locate the ball. He has a good motor and will hustle around. Displays solid speed and ability to quickly redirect. As a pass rusher he has good length and flashes the ability to try and use his weapons, but needs to keep developing his pass rush arsenal. Venckus is not a flashy defender, coupled with solid ability he has a bit of a blue collar / high effort appeal to his game. With further development as a player and physically could grow into a productive college defender.
What Iowa coaches said
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: Venckus was a kid who sent us his tape, probably halfway through the season this year. A year ago, I think, he was about 185 pounds, maybe 6-2. Now, he’s 6-5 and 230 pounds. Very explosive. Quick off the ball. In this game where you’re only evaluating juniors and not necessarily evaluating senior tape, he came under the radar. He had some accolades [the all-Broward thingie] ahead of some other guys who were highly recruited guys in that area. He ended up beating out a lot of those guys for those postseason awards. Very smart kid. He’s got to gain size and strength.
What I think
If this kid hits, jackpot. What a story. The big weight gain (185 to 220-ish) seemed to work for his body. He had an extremely productive senior season. Now, can he get to the requisite 250 to 270 to play effectively as a D-end in Iowa’s scheme? That’s the next assignment for DVC. And yes, I’m going with DVC. It’s just easier that way.