D'Imperio returns Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Greg Schiano said LB Ryan D'Imperio is the guy who's the happiest when the pads come on and it's time to hit. Football is just a different game to him if there's no hitting involved. The contact was taken away from him after a leg injury, but he's back and knows he needs to play 100 percent every snap because the game can be taken away from him in an instant.

Linebacker Ryan D'Imperio is one of those guys that define the words football player.

Just ask Head Coach Greg Schiano. During the spring while addressing the media after a practice, he talked about the team gearing up for its first day in pads and when asked who gets the most amped up for the pads coming on, he said Ryan D'Imperio, without blinking.

To be a middle linebacker, you need to be a little crazy. Not just anyone signs up to be the one that has to shed blocks by offensive linemen who might have 60 to 80 pounds on you. There are also the fullbacks, who're built like linebackers, running at you with a full head of steam while you're just on your toes reading the play. After that's all said and done you have to tackle the running back who's anywhere from 210 to 225 pounds, possibly more, and has a running start.

If you want to live that lifestyle and play football at the mike linebacker position, you need to love the game and the contact that comes with it. The junior D'Imperio loves contact and that's the only way the game should be played in his opinion.

"I love it, I don't know how to explain it," D'Imperio said of his love of football contact. "When you're not wearing pads, it's like you're not playing football. It's like tag or rough touch. There needs to be contact, that's what you want."

D'Imperio had to put his love for the game on hold after injuring his leg last spring. Once he was cleared to rehab, he did just that, and plenty of it. He had to make sure he could get his leg back into shape and ready to go. The leg healed and Schiano commented after one of the practices that he looked bigger, stronger, faster and better than he did before his injury.

"I did a lot of rehab," D'Imperio said. "I would rehab everyday for about two-to-three times a day. I would rehab when I was out of the hospital or after I was on the field. After practice I'd go in and ice my leg just to be safe."

Now since he's healthy and raring to go, the former Washington Township High School linebacker is taking the approach that you would expect out of him. He's going to play all-out while he's got a healthy leg because he knows first hand you never know when the game can be taken away from you.

"Just play your best because you don't know when you're last play is," he said. "I lived with the fact that I might never play again. But right now I'm 100 percent so I'm going to use [my leg] while I have it."

That starting linebacker job he's looking to regain won't come easy. In his absence, redshirt junior linebacker Damaso Munoz stepped in from outside linebacker and manned the middle where he excelled. Munoz finished third on the team with 67 tackles and also notched two-and-a-half sacks.

The competition is great D'Imperio says, but just like the running back battle, he and Munoz are close and look to help each other step their game up while competing for the starting position.

"He's just a great athlete," D'Imperio said. "We go over film together and try our best to encourage each other. It's a competition, but we do our best to push each other over."

So far camp is going well for D'Imperio as each day he is making improvements. His whole attitude and game is about grinding it out and putting in the work necessary to reach his goals. That was the case with his leg rehab. He's now hustling everyday to make sure he's ready to go this year.

"I'm learning more each day," he said. "I'm studying my playbook, making my reads, working hard and fixing whatever I need to in the film room."

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