‘Close-knit community’ of SMU draws in the commits

Huskies bring in one local and three out-of-province commits to their team.

John Diberardo, an offensive lineman from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School and Naol Denko, a defensive back from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School, both understand what playing Ontario football is like, but now both will get a taste for the game out east after signing with the Saint Mary’s University Huskies.

Tyrique Dixon-Bowden, a running back from Citadel High School and offensive linemen Cade Istace of Martin Collegiate have also committed to the Huskies.

John Diberardo

Courtesy of John Diberardo.

Attending Saint Mary’s University comes with its own set of perks. For John Diberardo, it’s a chance to hit the U Sports scene perhaps a bit earlier than expected. “The success the school has had in the previous years and the rebuilding of the program currently gives a great opportunity to play early,” he said.

And what better place to play than on a campus that has already enchanted you. “I love the atmosphere for a small school,” Diberardo said. “They have a great education system and it’s a family orientated environment.”

The 6’2, 315lbs guard and centre has been playing the sport for five years. He has seen his fair share of coaching staffs, but the excitement of learning under new bench bosses probably won’t fade when he joins the Huskies.

“They have a great coaching staff with former players and also coaches who have been around for a long time, giving the players the best possible coaching there could be,” Diberardo said.

The product of Hamilton, Ontario, is interested in Criminology and Social Science. He has played with the Hamilton Junior Ti-Cats (OFC) and the St. Thomas More Knights (Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association). He was also a two-time member of Team Ontario, one at the Football Canada Cup and the other at the International Bowl. He is a 2014 and 2016 OFC champion. He is also a two-time HWCDSB champion, Golden Horse Athletic Conference champion and OFSAA champion.

Naol Denko

Courtesy of Naol Denko.

Sometimes, your mind changes. Naol Denko, who was originally committed to the University of Toronto, decided he would pursue his career with the Huskies instead.

“I would like to thank the University of Toronto for recruiting me. Coach Gary and Coach Cappiello have done a lot for me and I only hope the best for them this upcoming season,” he said. “I would also like to thank my family, friends and coaches for supporting my decision.”

Now, the Brampton commit will be heading out to the east coast to a university he says is a tight-knit community. “Everything is close by, which will allow me to arrive to class or practice quicker,” he added.

Originally from South Africa, Denko currently lives with his two sisters and his mother. It won’t be easy leaving them behind. In 2010, his father and former University of Guelph Professor, Mieso K. Denko, passed away from liver cancer. “He played a prominent role in our family and my life. Ever since his death, I took the role as the man of house, so I had to work harder for my family,” Denko said.

“This work ethic eventually translated to the football field, and I continually remind myself everyday why I work hard. I play with a chip on my shoulder, and that made me the football player I am today,” he added.

The 5’11, 180lbs potential social science student has had the chance to meet Head Coach Colzie, Coach Tufford and Coach Dubs. “I think they all have great personalities and high expectations for us all,” he said. “So, I look forward to playing for them this upcoming season.”

In his career with the Notre Dame Knights (Region of Peel Secondary School Athletics Association), he was a 2015 Tier 2 champion. He also won an OFC provincial championship in his single season with the Guelph Jr. Gryphons.

Tyrique Dixon-Bowden
Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tyrique Dixon-Bowden will be staying home to play ball and attend school. The 5’10, 185lbs running back from the Citadel Phoenix (Nova Scotia School Athletics Federation Football League) is a back-to-back champion and Division 1 all-star.

Cade Istace
Cade Istace will be trekking in from his prairie home in Regina, Saskatchewan, to reach Nova Scotia. The 6’2, 270lbs athlete played with the revamped Martin Collegiate Monarchs (Regina Intercollegiate Football League), which went five years without a team. He also played baseball while in high school.

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