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Reidgee Dimanche’s long story in football is not over yet

Linebacker Reidgee Dimanche (30) in a game against William & Mary on Saturday, Oct. 1. Dimanche is in his sixth year with the Stony Brook football team and is team captain for the second time in his career. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

It’s hard to be good at football. Only about 9% of high school players play in college, with only 2.8% of those kids playing at the NCAA Division I level. That makes it seem almost impossible for a kid who hates football to reach those heights. However, that did not stop Stony Brook linebacker Reidgee Dimanche from achieving just that. 

Dimanche is currently in his sixth year with the Stony Brook football team, and is serving as a team captain for the second consecutive year. He may be fully bought into football now, but a younger version of him may have disapproved of his current life choice. Dimanche said he loathed football growing up, adding that he only started playing because it was simply “his turn” to do so.

“The funny thing is, I hated football when I first started,” Dimanche said in an interview with The Statesman. “I was the worst athlete on the team. I was terrible. My brother is eight years older than me, so he had been playing for a couple of years. It was just my turn.”

Dimanche grew up in Hamilton, N.J. and started playing football at the age of 10. He attended Hamilton West High School in New Jersey, where he was a three-sport athlete. Other than just playing football, Dimanche ran spring track and played basketball. Sports have been his life, as he has learned most of his lessons on the field.

“Sports have been integral in my growth, with just who I am as a person,” Dimanche said. “It’s shaped me into who I am. My beliefs, my wants and my needs in life have all come from sports. You learn so much from sports and you can use it in life.”

Dimanche’s first love was track and field. He said that he has considered switching back to track before just because of how much fun he had as a runner. He also credits his high school track coach, Danielle Grady, for helping develop him into the athlete he is today.

“Shoutout to Coach [Danielle] Grady,” Dimanche said. “She really helped me out a lot. She made me into a much better athlete than what I started as.”

Dimanche’s multi-sport background helped develop more than just his athleticism; it helped develop his personality, too. While his speed, agility and explosiveness may have improved because of the other sports, he believes that his time spent playing basketball and running track changed his perspective on sports.

“It made me think of sports in a different light,” Dimanche said. “It made me not just think of things as a football player, but think of things as an athlete. It helped me separate myself from others. I approached problems on the field and in the weight room in a different way. I think it really helped.”

Though track may have been fun, football was in his blood. Dimanche’s older brother, Jayson Dimanche, made it to the National Football League (NFL). Jayson was an outside linebacker and a special teamer in the NFL, and played for six different teams across five seasons. He appeared in regular season games with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns between 2013 and 2015. Before his professional career, he was a Division I linebacker at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

When his brother signed with the Bengals in 2013, Dimanche was going into his freshman year of high school. Dimanche said that his older brother was a big influence on his football career, as he watched him as a high schooler and learned from him every week. 

“He was a very big influence,” Dimanche said. “Playing on Saturdays and then watching him play on Sundays was crazy. It was great being able to go to games and practices and watch him live. It was super important to my growth and how I approached things as an athlete.”

The two have a strong football relationship. They still communicate regularly, and they watch film together to help the younger Dimanche improve.

“After every week, we try to watch as much of practice as we can,” Dimanche said. “We go over stuff. He watches all the games. We’ll rewatch the game together and he’ll give me tips and tricks. He’ll criticize me and give me what I need to know to try and get better next week.”

Going to the Bengals practices to watch his brother play rendered Dimanche partial to Cincinnati. Despite being from New Jersey — where New York Jets, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles fans are prominent — he reluctantly roots for the Bengals.

“My mom is a die-hard Eagles fan, but I am sadly a Bengals fan,” Dimanche joked. 

Having an NFL mentor proved to be key for Dimanche, as he went on to have a fantastic high school football career. He was a three-year starter on Hamilton West’s varsity football team, playing running back, wide receiver and linebacker. He set the school record for career total tackles with 325, while also posting 1,081 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns as a senior on offense. During that senior season of 2016, Dimanche was one of the team captains and wound up earning an All-State honorable mention. By that point, it had become pretty clear to Dimanche that he should continue on with his football career.

“It was less of a decision and more so the next step,” Dimanche said. “It was just what was naturally coming for me. I was working as hard as I could on the field and in school just waiting for someone to offer me a scholarship, so it was a given in my mind.”

Dimanche received three scholarship offers to play NCAA football, all of which were from Division I schools. The decision was between Temple, Monmouth and Stony Brook. Dimanche ultimately chose to become a Seawolf for a multitude of reasons. He said that he had an encouraging visit and that his parents loved the school for him. In regards to football, Dimanche thought that the team’s emphasis on defense made him a perfect schematic fit. He also thinks that Stony Brook University is the perfect distance from his home back in New Jersey.

“It was far enough away from New Jersey that I could get away, but close enough to where I could get on a train and get back there really quickly if I needed to,” Dimanche said.

Dimanche did not hit the ground running once he got to Stony Brook. He arrived in the fall of 2017 and experienced déjà vu with his new team.

“My position coach loves to remind me all of the time that I was probably one of the worst athletes on the field,” Dimanche said. 

Dimanche was behind the pack, and not deemed “game ready” by head coach Chuck Priore and his staff. They allowed him to catch up, as he redshirted for his freshman season. He spent 2017 hitting the weight room while also studying better and more experienced teammates. However, that did not lead to instant playing time in 2018. 

Dimanche spent his second year at Stony Brook as a backup, playing sparingly on defense and special teams. Dimanche longed to play a greater role on the team, but used his experience as a benchwarmer to improve for his next season. 

“It was tough because of my aspirations,” Dimanche said. “I didn’t think I was where I needed to be at the time. But looking back on it, it was a good learning experience.”

The 2018 season ended on a good note for Dimanche when Priore gave him words of encouragement to take into the offseason. Priore told him to work hard in the offseason and come back for the next season, as he was going to get an opportunity to start at outside linebacker for the 2019 team. Dimanche held up his end of the bargain and Priore fulfilled his promise.

“It kind of got handed to me and I’m thankful,” Dimanche said. “I feel like I took advantage of that opportunity in the spring. I did everything I needed to.”

The 2019 season played host to Dimanche’s breakout. He started all 12 games for the Seawolves that year and recorded 87 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Dimanche had finally gotten his opportunity and took full advantage. He credits the veteran players from that 2019 team for aiding him in his development as a player.

“I think I was the youngest starter at the time, and they always had my back,” Dimanche said. “Guys like Gavin Heslop, TJ Morrison, Augie Contressa, Synceir Malone.”

Dimanche never looked back after 2019. He has been a full-time starter for the football team ever since. However, that has not saved him from facing more difficulties. The 2020 season wound up being delayed until the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stalling the momentum of Dimanche’s ascending career. Once Dimanche finally got to play in that spring season, he fractured and dislocated his wrist, ending his season after just one game.

“I’d never had a season-ending injury, and it really set me back mentally and physically,” Dimanche said. “It really put me in a bad place.”

The injury left Dimanche out of football from March until August of that year. During his time off, he focused more on improving his mental health and his self-encouragement. He said that even prior to his injury, he was too hard on himself.

“I just tried to relax myself and relax my mind,” Dimanche said. “Try to not be too hard on myself. When I reflect now, I didn’t talk to myself and uplift myself well, even before the injury.”

The self-help worked for Dimanche, as he bounced back with a solid fifth season in the fall of 2021. He was named team captain as a redshirt senior and tallied 79 total tackles while starting all 11 games for the Seawolves. His leadership on and off the gridiron helped their defense finish third in total yards in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). 

After receiving an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA due to the COVID year, Dimanche decided to return to Stony Brook for a sixth and final year. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business management while starting at outside linebacker for the football team once more. Things are going very well for Dimanche right now, as he is currently sixth in the CAA in total tackles and also recorded his first-career interception against William & Mary on Oct. 1.

“It was awesome,” Dimanche said of his interception. “It’s great having a big play for the team. I really felt like that was for everybody.”

Priore named Dimanche a team captain for the second straight season. Priore spoke highly of Dimanche as both a player and as a leader in an interview with The Statesman.

“Quality person,” Priore said. “Every second that he’s part of this football team is all about team. Not a selfish person, great leader and a good football player.”

As Dimanche’s college career comes to a close, he hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps and play professionally. The kid who once hated football now has one clear goal in mind:

“Professional football is the next thing for me.”

Lara Thebold also contributed to this article.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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