DiLuigi Raring To Go Amidst Talented RB Group

After sitting out as a redshirt freshman following the re-aggravation of a foot injury he suffered while training back in California, J.J. DiLuigi is fully healed up and is looking to make a contribution this season.

As one of the top running backs in the state of California his senior year, J.J. DiLuigi was a running machine and singlehandedly put his team on his shoulders to defeat De La Salle High School to win California's first ever state championship. Now at BYU, the speedy running back is learning, developing and raring to go.

"You know, it's actually nice to be out with the team running around again," said an upbeat DiLuigi. "I'm just very excited and I've been waiting for this since the summer when I came down after I graduated from high school. Now being able to step out onto the field with my brothers on the team, it's the best feeling in the world."

Now that he's back in action with his "Band of Brothers," DiLuigi seems to have forgotten all about his old foot injury.

"I can actually cut now with my foot and do things that I like to do," said DiLuigi with a smile. "There are zero worries and I don't even think about it when I'm out there."

With the injury squarely behind him both physically and psychologically, DiLuigi is focusing on developing his running back skills "inch by inch" now that spring camp is in full swing. He realizes there is a lot of experienced competition that lies ahead of him, but for DiLuigi, competition is what it's all about.

"When Monday came around I was a little timid going out there and worried I was going to make a mistake," said a chuckling DiLuigi about the first day of spring practice. "I've just decided that I'm going to progress an inch every day. I want to focus on getting a little better each and every day, and hopefully that can result in helping my team win some games this year."

DiLuigi is anxiously engaged in learning as much as he can from running back coach Lance Reynolds in order to be the best he can.

"I just go to [Coach Reynolds] after every practice to see how I'm progressing and to learn what I need to work on the next day," said DiLuigi. "That way I can keep making those little jumps every day."

Now only have those in attendance seen how efficient and effective the offense has been during the first week of practice, but so has DiLuigi.

"The offense is looking awesome," said DiLuigi. "It's all just coming together really well. From what everybody is saying, the offense is a lot further ahead than where other teams in the past have been at this time. That is a major positive for our team. To know that we have three more weeks to continue developing this offense, I mean, it's only going to get better and better."

Now that he's standing squarely in BYU's offense, DiLuigi feels that the coaches have done a great job at helping him and his teammates learn the system.

"They break it down every [day] simply to where it's not very complex," said DiLuigi. "I mean, the coaches really make is simple for all of us to learn it so it's not too hard. I mean, we work at it every day, the same plays over and over again. So we'll work a play and then throw in a little twist in it."

In order to be a running back at BYU, one must not only be able to run the ball, but must be able to catch it out of the backfield as well. It was very common during this past week of practice to see DiLuigi sprinting out of the backfield in a receiver route to catch a pass from the quarterbacks.

"The coaches are really working our option routes and pretty much all of our routes," DiLuigi said. "They really push that every day because the running backs in this offense play a big part in the passing game, but then we must also know how to run and block in this offense as well. It's all coming along."

Like many others on the team, DiLuigi was heavily involved with the voluntary spring workouts, which he felt helped prepare him for the rigors of spring practice.

"The winter workouts were intense," said a chuckling DiLuigi. "I mean, every day we had guys laying on the ground throwing up. It was very brutal, but it was more of a mental test than a physical test. I mean, it was very physical - don't get me wrong - but it really pushes you mentally to see if you're going to quit or if you're going to last for the last three stations. Are you going to push that sled for 40 yards as fast as you can until you're dead tired, or are you going to give up the last 10 yards? It's a mental thing."

Recently while in the weight room, DiLuigi was encouraged by a few of his teammates to squat an incredible amount of weight for a redshirt freshman athlete.

"Yeah, my teammates gathered around me cheering and everybody was hitting great max numbers this winter," said DiLuigi. "I was talking to Fui [Vakapuna] and he was like, ‘Today, you're hitting 500.' I was like, ‘Okay, put it on the bar.' So my teammates put 500 pounds on the bar and I just jumped in there and did it without even thinking that's 500 pounds. I didn't even think about it and didn't even care because my teammates were supporting me. It was really cool once I got it up and finally realized, ‘Oh my gosh, that was 500 pounds I just squatted.'"

So could DiLuigi squat more than 500 pounds?

"Yeah I could," he said. "I didn't have any knee wraps on, or a belt. Coach Omer came up and put a stop to it and I'm kind of happy he did because that's quite a lot of weight. I didn't want to put any more weight than that on my foot."

And what about his bench press?

"My bench press is coming along well," said DiLuigi. "That's what I've been working on all year. I bench 295 right now."

Turning time back a year or so, DiLuigi used his strength, speed and running abilities to defeat De La Salle in the first ever California state championship game. Cal, Oregon and UCLA, among other Division I programs, came on strong for his services following his performance. On school that somewhat spurned him early on was UCLA. Following the state championship game, UCLA reentered the picture in an effort to change his mind about his commitment to BYU.

"Yeah, [UCLA] did [try to get me to de-commit from BYU] but I didn't really care," said DiLuigi. "UCLA was talking to my coach, and I was actually there with him, and he just kind of turned and looked at me and said, ‘It's UCLA.' I just was just like, ‘Yeah, so?' He said they were talking to him about how they wanted me and wanted this and that, but I just told him that I didn't want any part of it. I told him that I was already at a place where I felt comfortable, and that was at BYU. I'm very happy with my decision and I am loving it here. Band of Brother ‘til I die."


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