When you talk about the UCF Knights’ great stable of backs from the 80s and 90s, Mark Giacone has to be at or near the top of your list.
He was small (5-9, 185 pounds, according to the 1987 roster), but fast (among the fastest UCF had at the time) with a 4.4 40-yard-dash speed, but sometimes eschewed the open field for contact - so much so, in fact, that he earned the nickname “Magnet Man” because he occasionally sought contact even in the open field.
A native of Westfield, New Jersey, Giacone came to UCF in 1987 in time for the Knights’ run to the Division II Playoffs, leading the high-flying 9-4 Knights in rushing as a freshman with 510 yards.
In 1988, Giacone suffered a devastating knee injury that sidelined him for most of the season, and no doubt contributed to the Knights dropping five of their last six en route to a disappointing 6-5 finish.
Come 1989, Giacone not only re-earned his scholarship, but returned in even better form, earning team MVP honors with 410 yards on the ground.
Then, in 1990, things really came together.
Teaming up in the backfield with UCF Hall-of-Famer Willie English, Giacone rushed for a then-school record 923 yards on 167 carries (5.5 yards a pop) in the regular season, and earned the Team MVP award again. His magnum opus was in the Knights’ stunning upset win at then-11-0 Youngstown State in the first round of the I-AA Playoffs, when he ran for a school record 191 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, becoming the first UCF back to ever eclipse 1000 yards in a single season, and helping the Knights to a 20-17 playoff win in its first season in I-AA. The Knights made it to the semifinals, where their 10-4 season ended at the hands of the eventual national champions, Georgia Southern.
Giacone finished with 2,128 career yards, good enough for second all-time at UCF behind Elgin Davis at the time he graduated, even though he missed much of his sophomore year. He still ranks 9th all-time. He also scored 22 career touchdowns, which was tops all-time as of his graduation, and still ranks 6th in school history.
After UCF, Giacone tried to latch on in the pros, but eventually went back home to New Jersey to begin a long and fruitful career in telecommunications. He now lives on the Jersey Shore.
Keep your eye out for a special edition of our podcast, where we speak with Mark Giacone about his time at UCF.