When most students finish classes, they might hang out with friends or get involved with club activities. On the other hand, Red Hawks’ running back and co-captain John DiStefano is hard at work, getting ready to dominate on the football field.
Prior to the season, DiStefano was named one of four captains of this year’s football team, which is something that he has been thankful for throughout his playing career at Montclair State.
“I was proud because, to be captain, the players have to vote, it’s not the coaches,” DiStefano said. “It means all my teammates and all my peers look at me highly, so it’s a good feeling for me.”
DiStefano, a senior exercise science major, is one of the main components on offense for the Red Hawks football team. He is in his third season with the team, transferring from Wagner College in New York his sophomore year.
The Lincroft native says he became easily accustomed to the atmosphere because he knew a lot of players — many being from the area where he grew up. He has enjoyed his time with the team, adding that they’ve always looked after him.
Having played football since the age of six, he explained how great it’s been to continue his passion up until his last year of college.
“When you think about it, only six percent of people who played high school football have the opportunity to go on and play in college,” DiStefano said. “So it’s been a blessing that I found my passion at a young age and was able to pursue it.”
DiStefano mentioned that his best memory is the friendships that he’s been making — crediting this as the best part of playing at Montclair State.
DiStefano was named Montclair State Athlete of the Week for September 12, after scoring three touchdowns and 305 all-purpose yards in the 25-15 season opener win over Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham. He currently leads the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) in both rushing and all-purpose yards.
He said Montclair State’s newly-hired running back coach John Walker, a 2006 Montclair State Hall of Fame Inductee, has been teaching and showing him how to fix mistakes during games. Although, one lone reason stands out to DiStefano as to why he is motivated to play football every day.
“Winning,” DiStefano said, “because I want to win a championship and I want to win a conference championship, and I also want to set records. That’s really what motivates me.”
The running back is also able to bring leadership to the team, saying that everyone looks to see how a captain handles good and bad times. He aims to remain positive under all conditions. This, along with what he produces each season, has earned him praise among his underclassman teammates.
“It’s been a great experience,” sophomore Anthony Travisano said. “He teaches me all the ropes. He puts in hard work, so I just learn from him, basically every day.”
However, his passion for the game hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the Red Hawk veterans.
“I’ve been playing with John for a long time,” senior and co-captain Anthony Dorsi said. “Just watching his style of running — it’s a different breed from other running backs. He keeps going. It’s great [playing with DiStefano], because he works just as hard as we do.”
Last year, he played in all ten games, carrying the ball six times and recording 472 rushing yards with five touchdowns. At this point in 2016, he has 458 rushing yards with five touchdowns.
“John has matured, and he’s gotten better in each of his three years,” Head Coach Rick Giancola said. “He’s become a leader, he works hard [and] he practices hard. He sets a good example for the other players to follow. We’re lucky to have him.”