Senior defensive lineman Dimitri Pali has had plenty of accolades throughout his career. He led the Red Hawks in sacks in 2021, was named First Team All-New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and was NJAC player of the week in his first year at Montclair State University back in 2019, just to name a few.
However, there’s a lot about Pali that you may not know. Details that are vital to his current and past success. And in terms of football, it all starts back in high school with a certain influential figure.
“I’d say my biggest inspiration was really my high school coach,” Pali said. “Funny thing is he had the same name as my [defensive line] coach right now, coach Bill Walsh. He passed away due to ALS [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis]. He was a big part of me. He was like a father figure to me. So, I really looked up to him. He really pushed me on my journey. He saw that I could be better. I was in the gym every day working with him.”
One of Pali’s current teammates and roommate, graduate student defensive back Mike Ramos, has been with Pali every step of the way at Montclair State.
“When [Pali] first came in, he was always very quiet and I didn’t talk to him that often,” Ramos said. “[But] from the first day, I saw how much talent he had and I was glad he was one of us now. He has put in so much extra work in the off-season to get to where he is now. He is now one of my closest friends and roommate and I’m grateful to have grown on and off the field with him. I’m excited to see him continue to make plays for us on the defensive side of the ball.”
One thing that was consistently made clear about Pali is that his passion for football and his work ethic is special and unlike any other players on the team. Associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Palazzo detailed exactly how much work Pali puts in when it comes to conditioning and getting his body in shape.
“The most impressive part about [Pali] was the off-season training that he does,” Palazzo said. “He really knows how to take care of his body and he’s so physically strong. Some guys don’t know how to train and they just try to lift heavy weights. [Pali] stresses his flexibility and functional training.”
Pali was also voted as a team captain for the 2022 season, which is a huge accomplishment for any member of the Montclair State football team. Palazzo said Pali’s teammates knew that he deserved it this season.
“This year [Pali] was voted as a captain by his peers,” Palazzo said. “This is a very deserving award because while [Pali] is quiet, he’s a leader in how he approaches the game. He’s very passionate and he’s willing to grow not only as a player but as a leader. I’ve really enjoyed watching [Pali] develop [into these things].”
Before his success with the Red Hawks, Pali was a transfer from East Stroudsburg University down in Pennsylvania. Palazzo fought hard to get him onto the squad.
“He was a late recruit for us,” Palazzo said. “[I] found out he was leaving East Stroudsburg and I didn’t get ahold of him right away. I was persistent and finally got him on campus I believe in late May and we got him to commit shortly after.”
Pali was not feeling his prior school, but when he came to Montclair State, it felt like he was at home.
“When I first got here, it was different from my old school,” Pali said. “I went to East Stroudsburg. I played there during my freshman year. It didn’t really work out. I entered the transfer portal and [Palazzo] hit me up. He [said] ‘Hey, what would you think about coming to play at Montclair State?’ I [said], ‘Alright.’ I came up for a visit and I talked to [head coach Rick Giancola], it was a great conversation. I loved it. I was like ‘Alright, I [want to] come here.’ I love the campus, it’s a beautiful campus. There’s a great culture here.”
This may be Pali’s senior year at Montclair State, but it’s safe to say that given his leadership and athletic ability, nobody wants to see him go anywhere else anytime soon.
Palazzo had a straightforward message for Pali for the future.
“I really hope he comes back next year,” Palazzo said. He’s probably close to graduating but has a year due to [the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic], so fingers crossed. [Pali], if you read this, let’s run it back.”