BRISTOL - While often referred to as the big guy up front on the line for the St. Paul football team, Dominic Aiello’s height has been the key reason that he hasn’t gotten Division I looks as he stands at 6 feet tall, undersized for a lineman at that level of collegiate football.
“When stuff like that happens it kind of put a chip on my shoulder,” Aiello said. “It’s something that I’m definitely going to carry into college on the football field.”
While it may have Division I programs turning away, Aiello was All-League for the second consecutive year in the NVL and is a likely candidate for his second consecutive All-State recognition.
“Dom is one of the hardest workers I know,” brother and junior defensive end Joey Aiello said. “He’s a role model to look up to. He’s always the first one out to practice and the last one off. In the offseason he’s in the gym every single day and working his tail off. That’s somebody that I try to be.”
His work in the classroom has been equally impressive as Aiello recently committed to the admission process at Middlebury College to study neuroscience as his pre-med requirements and he hopes to get into medical school to eventually go into orthopedic surgery or oncology and do cancer research to work toward finding a cure.
“He’s a really intelligent kid who does everything right,” St. Paul senior tailback Damien Rabis said. “He cares for other people. He’s a really hard worker and really focused and he knows his goals and when he sets his goals he meets them.”
Just like his work on the practice field, Aiello works hard to perfect his craft in the classroom.
“He’ll stay up until 1 a.m. to study and then set his alarm for 5 a.m. and wake up at 5 to study some more,” Joey Aiello said. “He’s one of the smartest kids in the school. He’s going to be very successful.”
Aiello plans on playing football at Middlebury, a Division III program that plays in the NESCAC conference. He will follow in the footsteps of his father Paul, who played football as a defensive end at Bentley University.
“He just really loves the game and instilled that love of it in me since I was a little kid,” Aiello said.
This season with St. Paul, Aiello was able to show off his capabilities despite being banged up for much of the year.
“Especially this year, he was impressive with him showing his mental and physical toughness,” Rabis said. “He was pretty much injured all season but still had an All-State type of year going through that pain. It’s just incredible.”
His performance also has gained the respect of fellow coaches throughout the league.
“He was All-League this year as well as last year,” St. Paul head coach Jude Kelly said. “And with the NVL you’re talking 16 teams and they only pick 24 kids for both the offense and the defense for that. So you know he’s got a lot of respect from all of the different coaches that are in the league.”
With the elder of the Aiello brothers now done with football at St. Paul, his brother will be entering his senior season next year for the Falcons and his third season as a starter.
He’s hoping to continue to carry on the legacy his brother has built.
“In my freshman year I was on the scout team as a linebacker and I’d be blitzing him,” Joey Aiello said. “He’d beat me obviously but he would say don’t let anybody beat you. Get up and keep going so he taught me a lot.”
For the Falcons, Dominic’s presence on the line will be missed. But what he’s done with the program has helped him get to where he is today both on and off the field.
Being overlooked has also altered his view on his future.
“It made me realize that football isn’t everything and for a long time all I was thinking about was college football,” Aiello said.
“When it started to get to the point where all the colleges I was hoping I would play at started to cut me off and I was looking around I started looking a lot more at schools as a whole and what they offer for me academically. I think that will end up being one of the best things that has happened to me in the long run. It’s the 4-vs.-40 thing. You put your focus in academics for the next 40 years while still playing football for the next four.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan