The road to becoming a college football player has many different forks and turns. For Cincinnati senior center Dominic Mainello, Saturday’s first career start against Miami Ohio has been a long and winding road from his prep career at Fort Mitchell (Ky.) Beechwood High School to across the river at Paul Brown Stadium.
“I was originally supposed to go to Central Michigan,” said Mainello. “But that didn’t work out with my shoulder and the coaches leaving. But I really found a good place here at Cincinnati as the coaches accepted me and I was able to earn a scholarship after a couple of years. Now I’m starting.”
Mainello (L) at UC Camp as a High School prospect going against Jordan Stepp
With uncertainties from the start of his career, Mainello looking back knew a workman like attitude was the only way to approach his desire to play at the collegiate level.
“You come in as a freshman not knowing what is going to happen,” he said. “I have played four different positions since I’ve been here. I’ve played every position along the line except left tackle. So you have to be prepared to work your butt off every day and do the best in everything you do. Then hopefully, you’re ready when it happens.”
Coming out of high school, Mainello weighted around 255-pounds and knew he’d have to get bigger to even have a chance. While many feel adding weight is easy, there is no magic pill to take to add the 30 or more pounds to have a chance to compete in college. That struggle has finally seen him reach his current playing weight of 293-pounds.
“Up until this year I’ve struggled to get the weight up,” he explained. “Finally, I was able to get in the 290-pound range this year. But until then, I was around 270-pounds. It was hard the first two years as I was also working so it was not easy. But you go home and eat as much as you can, wake up in the middle of the night and eat again and then when you are not doing anything, you eat and drink the shakes whenever you can do it.”
Just like entering high school, Mainello also had to make the adjustment of not being a front line player.
“Up until high school I had started every game I played and never been a back-up,” he said. “So it was a really big adjustment that first year. But you then realize that people in front of you are going to be potential NFL players. Especially along the offensive line where you don’t come in and start unless you’re like 6-foot-6, 310-pounds.
“When I came in I was 265-pounds and knew I had to get bigger and stronger as well as having to learn the offense. Learning the offense is the biggest part of it all as you just can’t come out and play because you have to know the offense.
“I think I did alright,” he said. “I have to get a little bit better every week but I’ve been the back-up center for three years now. So I’ve been preparing for it every year because you have to be ready when your number is called.
“Getting to start Saturday is really nice as I’ve been waiting for it a long time. I wish it was under different circumstances, but it means a lot to me.”