Garrett DiStefano will join the South team in the high school football all-star game before joining the football team at Erie Community College in the fall. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.
Everyone grows up. Through growing up, you adapt to surroundings in order to have the most success possible.
In sports, a player is sometimes forced to change the way he plays. They may also be forced to change positions or be asked to do something they’re not totally on board with. Garrett DiStefano used his speed to make up for a lack of size early on in his football playing days to have success and transform into a leader at the most important position on the defensive side of the ball.
Recently graduated from Eden, DiStefano will pursue football at the collegiate level when he enrolls at Erie Community College in the fall. But the 6-foot-2, 205-pound middle linebacker, who wasn’t always that big, will make one more stop on his football journey to take part in the 39th Annual Kensington Lions All-Star High School Football Classic which was played on July 30 at Depew High School.
The game pits the top senior football players in Western New York against each other for one more go around. DiStefano will play on the South team and is using his leadership ability to learn a new defense and work with some players he has never played with before to hopefully end his high school career with a win.
“I haven’t played football in a while so its pretty good to get out there and play football with a bunch of guys that have the same mindset as me,” DiStefano said. “I just can’t wait until the game starts. I expect good competition. It’s the best players playing against the best players, you don’t know what is going to happen.”
DiStefano helped lead Eden to the second round of the Class B playoffs this season and was named to the All-Class B South first team. He was also Sportsman of the Year in Class B. After playing on and learning from two years of varsity, he feels like he is ready for the challenge that comes with playing college football.
One thing that DiStefano has been able to lean on throughout his career is his quickness. Growing up, DiStefano wasn’t the biggest player, but he was always the fastest. He grew up playing Little Loop football and began at the age of 8. He started playing Hamburg Little Loop before moving to Eden where he then finished his Little Loop days.
DiStefano finished his senior campaign with 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks to go along with a fumble recovery. Along with being a team captain and a defensive leader and signal-caller, he rushed 40 times for 234 yards, averaging nearly six yards per carry along with a touchdown.
DiStefano’s father Gary has told his son that he runs the fastest five-yard that he’s ever seen. Speed is something that DiStefano knows will be at a premium at the next level, but it’s the size and physicality of the college game that he’s hoping he can adjust to quickly. The Kensington All-Star game is just a stepping stone in that direction for him.
“I was always a small player until the last few years so I always tried to prove to my coaches that I was better than what my size showed,” DiStefano said. “That’s one of the biggest things in my football career that I thought was kind of a thing that drives me. The fastest guy can beat the tallest guy any day.”
Despite the personal accolades and achievements, DiStefano is still focused on the bigger picture. Eden was able to re-establish its identity as a smash mouth football team in 2013, in part to the hard work by everyone involved. DiStefano’s year was highlighted by a 12-tackle game against Pioneer and an 11-tackle game against Holland/East Aurora, but he won’t take 100 percent of the credit for any of those tackles.
“I think mostly it was a team effort,” DiStefano said. “Someone has to take a block for me to be able to get a tackle. I’m not going to take full credit for my success because it wasn’t just me, there’s 10 other guys on the field. Working out and stuff helps, but you need a team.”
DiStefano will be studying history in college and will look into a future in teaching. Fall practice begins on August 2 for ECC and for DiStefano, it can’t come soon enough. He’ll be looking for anything that he can use to help motivate him, and take his play on the field to the next level.