With piercing eyes that could send a quarterback scampering in the opposite direction, Dominic Paribello said he didn’t think he was ever going to don football pads and a helmet again.
Even if he could, the recent Juanita High graduate — who was sidelined for two seasons following a pair of surgeries for a left femur fracture and has since recovered — didn’t know if he wanted to play the sport anymore. He was also unsure if anyone desired to include him on their team.
Out of the blue in the early months of 2019, dad Greg received a call from an old friend and coach at Kentucky Christian University. The Knights wanted to offer Dominic a scholarship to play defensive tackle/nose guard for their squad, which competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The 6-foot-1, 325-pound athlete with a plate and 10 screws in his knee accepted and he’ll soon be traveling to Grayson, Kentucky to put those pads and helmet to good use.
Dominic, whose childhood dream was to play college football, is up for the challenge that awaits.
“Overall, I’m just blessed, ‘cause when I got hurt the first time, I was like, ‘I’ll be good, I’ll be able to have another year to show the teams what I can do,’ but knowing that I couldn’t play my senior year was really low for me,” said Dominic, who works out with Greg at 4:30 a.m. every morning in the gym to continue to build his strength.
On the KCU interest and scholarship, Dominic added: “That gave me a lot determination to know I want to get better and get stronger and get back to 100 percent to be able to go play football again.”
Greg said that doctors cleared his son to train on Feb. 27, 2019 and the time in the gym has brought the two closer together.
Dominic played freshman, junior varsity and some varsity football his first year at Juanita and started every varsity game his sophomore year.
In a televised game on Real Sports on Sept. 7, 2017 — Juanita’s first game of his junior year against Kennedy — Dominic and a teammate were trying to make a tackle when his fellow Rebel’s helmet connected with Dominic’s left knee.
Greg, who has coached Dominic since he was 6, said “that was the hardest game I’ve ever coached in my life watching him from on the sidelines.”
After some complications, two surgeries, emotional battles and spending 15 months on crutches and in a wheelchair, Dominic slowly began working out. The call from Greg’s friend at KCU, who watched Dominic since he was young and was further impressed with his sophomore highlight reel, changed the game for the Rebel.
“It was a blessing,” Greg said. “I think that was motivation for him to hit the gym even harder with me.”
Taking up the shot put and discus for the Rebel track and field team in the spring gave Dominic a further physical and mental boost. Dominic wanted to prepare for football and get back on the field to play a sport. He sat on the sidelines long enough.
In Dominic’s first year on the track and field scene, he finished second in the shot put with a personal record of 46-4.75 feet at the 3A KingCo championships. His previous PR was 42-5.5. He ended up taking sixth in the district at 45-2.25 in the shot, and sixth in KingCo in the discus with a PR of 110-11.
All the while, Dominic lost weight and got faster and more athletic while throwing, which will put him in a solid position when football season commences.
Plowing through adversity and making his body healthier after lots of treatment has made him a more humble person, he said.
“I just take every step single and just try to get through the day as good as I can,” Dominic said. “I can’t just take this for granted. It’s really life changing just as a person, just knowing that I went over this little bump in the road that I think I can keep going.”
The Reporter asked Paribello a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life:
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
This is a hard one. One of my favorite ones is probably “The Avengers,” the new one.
What superpower would you like to have?
It would definitely be super strength.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the area?
Red Robin’s the easy one.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I’m really impatient, and I don’t like waiting on people.
What’s your dream vacation spot?
The Bahamas. Somewhere really nice and have nice water that’s actually clean you can swim in.
If you could go to dinner with one person, who would that be?
Ray Lewis, that’s my favorite football player, I wear 52 because of him. He’s one of my idols in my life.
What special skill would you like to learn?
To be great at what I do, great at football.