Despite a season-ending injury this past September, sophomore linebacker Dorian Gashi has found a way to continue contributing to the Montclair State University football team in an off-the-field role.
Gashi emerged seemingly out of nowhere for the Red Hawks’ last season, coming in as a transfer from Wagner College. After making big plays on special teams, the coaches had no choice but to give him playing time on defense, where he would eventually take over as the starter at linebacker.
His performance last season earned him the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was ready to continue where he left off at his linebacker position in his second season for the Red Hawks. However, due to suffering a torn pectoral muscle against Thiel College in the first game of the season, his season was cut off early.
“I was just playing like a madman, went to go get off a block and [my pec] just ripped,” Gashi said, recounting the moment his injury occurred. “I did not think much of it and played the rest of the game in discomfort. It was only after I got looked at afterwards that I found out it was more serious than I thought.”
This injury required surgery, which was performed in late September. Recovery from this injury is expected to be six to nine months with proper physical therapy, which means Gashi is scheduled to be back in time for next season.
During this time when Gashi is unable to play, he is still helping his team off the field. Over the past few weeks, he has been participating in a role that allows him to coach his fellow teammates.
Under the title “assistant to the associate head coach,” Gashi can still be a vital member of the team while not directly being on the field.
In the days leading up to a game every week, Gashi runs the scout team, the players that mimic what their upcoming opponent will do on game day, against the starting team. He also runs the scouting reports, watches film on their opponents, takes notes and informs the other coaches who and what to watch out for during a game.
On game day, he is in the press box where he gets an elevated view of the game. He sees the opposing team’s offense, reading the formation they are in as well as the personnel they have on the field and relays that information to the defensive coordinator, the head coach of the defense. This allows the coordinator to adjust to help better the team’s chances of winning.
“I think it’s pretty cool that they gave me this opportunity after how everything went down in the first game,” Gashi said. “I love this team and will do anything to help us get better, even if I can’t be side by side with my teammates.”
The work Gashi is doing off the field is not going unnoticed by his fellow teammates. Sophomore defensive lineman Jake Cusano talked about how Gashi has been a positive influence in practice and on game day.
“[Gashi] just makes life so much easier come game time,” Cusano said. “He knows what he’s talking about and really cares about helping the whole defensive unit, including myself.”
Coaches have also talked highly about the benefit Gashi brings to the team. Associate head coach Mike Palazzo, also the defensive coordinator for the Red Hawks, commented on what Gashi brings to the table.
“[Gashi] is one of the most dedicated people we have in the program,” Palazzo said. “Some players when they suffer a season-ending injury fade away and aren’t with the team much, but Dorian is here every day doing everything he can to be an asset to the team.”
Gashi may not be at his usual linebacker position this season, but he has adapted to his new role, proving that he could still help his team get to the next level.
“I know it’s cliche, but the saying ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ has so much truth to it,” Gashi said. “No matter if I’m on the field or off it, I know I work with my teammates in order to reach our goals.”