The Italian Stallion

It will be pick your poison when BYU's opponents face the Cougar running attack. However, what is a stable full of horses right now will be an equestrian ghost town in just a few years, so recruiting running backs must be a priority for the BYU staff this recruiting season. A firecracker from California might be just what the Cougars need.

There is an old saying that dynamite comes in small packages. There is no better example of this than John Diluigi. From an Irish Catholic home in Canyon Country, California, Diluigi ran his way into the record books at Canyon High School.

"I'm 5-9, 180-pounds," said Diluigi. "I run a 4.5. Last year they tested me on my shuttle and it was a 4.2 and a 30 inch vertical. I can't dunk a basketball but I can hang on the rim. I can't with a basketball because I can't grip it. I squat 465-pounds and I bench 255 and power clean 275."

A monster is the weight room, Diluigi lovingly credits his mother's homemade cooking for some of his on field success.

"I eat a lot of pasta," chuckled Diluigi. "I was second team all-state for all purpose yards. I was first team all-state underclassmen, I was Division II All-CIF Offensive Player of the Year, I was Foothill Player of the Year, I was the Daily News Player of the Year, Corrida Valley Player of the Year and I was Player of the Week for FoxSports West."

Diluigi's many accolades are better understood in light of his impressive stat sheet. He amassed 1,875 yards rushing and 43 touchdowns as a junior in Canyon's spread offense. Diluigi's touchdown mark was a record in southern California's Foothill League. The speedster also played defensive back.

"I have good vision," said Diluigi. "I look for a seam and just go. If there is a guy in front of me on the way into the end zone, if it comes down to me having to either juke him out or run over him I can do them both. It depends on what way I'm going at the time. I'll high step you or truck you."

Although Diluigi has received a scholarship from Brigham Young University, Diluigi would like to see other offers come in.

"I can see myself playing for a team like UCLA, Cal, BYU or Oregon—so pretty much any of those schools right there," Diluigi said. "BYU offered me a scholarship a week ago. BYU's head coach, Coach Mendenhall, offered me the scholarship."

The offer came after Diluigi and his father were on the Provo campus attending BYU's Junior Day and Blue-White game activities. While on campus, Diluigi got a feel for the area, the campus, the football team and the coaches. Both he and his father came away impressed with their BYU experience.

"I went out there for their Junior Day," said Diluigi. "It was great. I loved the scenery. It's a place that is very nice looking and the people are all very friendly. The stadium is just crazy, it's huge. They had their little scrimmage called the Blue and White Game and they had 10,000 people out to that. The facilities are all nice there.

"The coaches are great and I really like the way their schemes are worked out. I also like the fact that I could go in there and be a starting running back or halfback or H back at the slot as a freshman."

Diluigi's father also came away impressed from his BYU visit as well. In fact, BYU is now the standard against which all other schools will be judged.

"My dad was up there with me and I flew up the Friday before Junior Day," said Diluigi. "He was impressed. He thinks BYU is the number one school right now. Right now it's basically what do you have to offer over BYU and that's kind of how he is thinking. He was very impressed by BYU."

During Junior Day, one of the activities involved an interactive meeting between BYU's current players and the potential recruits on campus. Where the potential recruits got a chance to ask questions to current members on the team.

However, Diluigi was not able to attend the meeting. He and his father were up in Bronco Mendenhall's office where the BYU head coach wad a full ride scholarship offer. Diluigi was able to catch up with some of the players at the game.

"Later on, when we were at the actual scrimmage game, some of the players came up to me and were really personable," said Diluigi. "When I went to other schools they would just be like, ‘Hey,' and just walk away. These guys actually stopped, talked to you and tried to get to know you and to let you know that BYU is the place to go and let you feel like they need you and stuff like that.

"They said that you have to be a good person and if you're religious you go to your church and abide by your church's rules and stuff like that. I'm not Mormon, I'm Catholic, but their football team told me that they have a coach who is Catholic and isn't a Mormon, and they don't pressure you to becoming Mormon or anything like that. They just want you to grow as a person spiritually, academically and athletically."

So what were Diluigi's impressions of Coach Mendenhall?

"He was kind of different," said Diluigi with a laugh. "Once I was in his office along with him and my dad, he seemed to kind of calm down. Like, he was kind of nervous when he was around all the recruits, but by himself he was calm. He's a really nice guy. I met all of the coaches and they're all really good guys. I mostly talked with Coach Lamb and he's great and seems to really know what he is doing."

Despite not being able to attend the meeting with the current BYU football players, Diluigi was able to talk with and get to know quite a few of them on the sidelines during the scrimmage.

"I walked in there and I see just one big family, you know," Diluigi said. "Everybody gets along with each other and none of them are excluding others from activities or certain games or what ever. They're all together and they're all one. Whereas on other teams there are guys who are really good players but they exclude themselves from the rest of the team because they think they're better than them. It's not like that at BYU."

The emphasis placed by BYU coaches on developing the total person rather than just the football side of things impressed Diluigi and his father. That aspect of BYU has become a very attractive one for the talented running back.

"It's like they're almost not just teaching you about football and academics, but they're also teaching you about becoming a better person in the overall scheme of life," said Diluigi.

BYU's academic expectations and standards were also presented to Diluigi. The academic standards and support system were another impressive aspect for the running back.

"They're really high on academics and stay on their players," said Diluigi. "Right now they have, I think, 63 people on the team with over a 3.0 PGA, so they're really high on the academics of their players."

Diluigi's should fit in nicely amid BYU's academic rigors. He understands that he must take care of the work off the field in order to play on the field.

"I'm doing really well right now," said Diluigi. "I have a 3.3 GPA and I took the SAT on April 1st. I haven't gotten the results yet."

Diluigi is still hoping to receive scholarship offers from other schools, but when they come, BYU will still hold its place at the top of his list.

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