By Frank Rizzo
BRIDGEPORT, CT April 10, 2001 - Deacon Jones, the Hall of Fame defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams, referred to the line of scrimmage as The Pit.
Its something that 1998 Tri-Valley CS grad D.J. Dymond can relate to.
Its dark, Dymond, a defensive tackle for Sacred Heart University of Bridgeport, Ct., said of the line of scrimmage battles. You dont see much light going up against a 300-lb. tackle.
Its intimidating, Dymond continued, but as long as you keep leverage, youll be okay.
D.J.s a very technical player, noted Jim Fleming, first-year head coach of the NCAA Division I-AA Pioneers. Hes an undersized defensive tackle in a land of giants, but holds his own with tremendous body positioning, leverage, and good strength.
Following His Brother
D.J. followed his older brother Calvin to the school, so I was familiar with the campus. Calvin played football in his freshman year, but then had to have surgery on his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and had to give it up.
D.J. related how he dropped off a videotape of his Tri-Valley playing days at the Sacred Heart football office.
I was going here anyway, Dymond said. They have nice facilities and I was interested in the athletic trainer program.
His freshman season was difficult, Dymond said. We only won two games
I started the last five games, but at the end I still doubted myself.
The following spring, during the mini-season, Dymond moved from linebacker to defensive tackle, and said he started to gain confidence at the beginning of his sophomore year.
He has put on 40 lbs. since high school, and with the benefit of off-season conditioning and weight training is much stronger.
Even though I gained weight Im maintaining my speed, Dymond noted.
Regarding his increasing skill on the field, Dymond said, I guess with experience you get to read offenses better, and put yourself in better positions.
D.J. has increased his strength and his speed, Fleming agreed.
Under Fleming, who has a wealth of Division I and I-A coaching experience, Sacred Heart had its best year ever, finishing 101 overall and 71 in the Northeast Conference (NEC). Only Robert Morris, with an 80 mark, beat out the Pioneers.
For his efforts in turning around a program which had gone 29 in 1999, Fleming was tabbed 2000 NEC Coach of the Year.
We hope to go undefeated next fall, and take [the conference championship] back from Robert Morris, Dymond said.
Fleming feels confident about the 2001 season, saying he has most of his team back.
Unsung Not Unnoticed
Linemen are often unappreciated, except by their coaches and teammates. Their exploits may not make the highlight film, but their efforts are highlighted by a close study of game films.
D.J. is a mainstay of the defense at defensive tackle, Fleming praised. If he breaks down, then the whole line breaks down. What he does on a day-to-day basis allows others to do their job.
D.J. understands the vital nature of what he does, Fleming added.
The Pioneers ranked second in the nations Division I-AA ranks in scoring defense, allowing just 13.4 ppg.
Teammates have voiced their appreciation of Dymond by naming him one of the captains for next fall.
Hes everything you want in a football player, Fleming said. He leads by example, on and off the field.
Dymond said he is taking five classes and 15 credits this semester and Ive been doing progressively better academically. Ive gotten better at time management.
To fulfill the requirements of one of his clinical classes, Dymond put in time as athletic trainer in training with the womens basketball team.
In the off-season, Dymond starts his conditioning at 6 a.m.
Being on the football team demands a lifestyle of unusual dedication.
A lot of things can suffer like grades, Dymond said. You sacrifice a lot. You cant do what other students do.
Over his college years, Dymond has had a chance to face teammates turned out by T-V football coach Max Stolzenberg.
In his first two seasons Sacred Heart played Siena, where fellow 98 alumnus Justin Mootz has established his credentials as starting linebacker.
He has also been on opposite sides of the field from J.R. Ackerley (Iona) and Tom Conjura (Wagner).
Ive no regrets going out for the team, Dymond said. It keeps me busy.
Sacred Heart must be the Dymonds school of choice because D.J.s brother Tim, a 2000 Tri-Valley grad, also chose to go there.
Tim saw playing time late in games at linebacker, where I want to play, D.J. said with a touch of envy.
But Coach Fleming said he plans to move Tim to the defensive line as well.
Hes got great promise, Fleming said of Tim. He hits like a truck. I have great expectations that hell turn out to be a similar player [as D.J.]
The intensity level is amazing, said Tim, who had four tackles against Central Connecticut State. You live football 24 hours a day.