What makes a team great goes beyond the technically trained athletes we see on the field on game day.
As the wide receiver on the New York Giants practice squad, West Chester University graduate Dan DePalma knows this first-hand.
After training with the Jets in the preseason, DePalma filled the eighth and final spot on the Giants’ practice squad, where he now preps the players for Super Bowl XLVI. In the weeks preceding the big day, DePalma was assigned the task of imitating Patriots’ wide receiver, Wes Welker, to determine the Giants’ ability to shut down their defense.
“The coaches gave me a cut-up (video) of his routes,” DePalma said in an article from The Star-Ledger. “So I study that at night and try to come out the next day and play like him and give the guys the best look I can. Welker is a great receiver, and his play speaks for itself.”
Although he primarily focuses on Welker, DePalma also studies Julian Edelman, the receiver turned defensive back, who was expected to potentially cover Victor Cruz on Sunday.
Having participated in Super Bowl training in his first year out of college, DePalma, who graduated from WCU last spring, is already making a name for himself in the NFL.
“A small DII kid with nothing to lose making it as far as he did and now having a chance to be a part of the Super Bowl and actually winning one is unbelievable,” Corey Broyles, a WCU football senior, said.
But at 5-feet-11-inches, 195 pounds, and a graduate of a DII football program, it hasn’t been an easy road to the NFL for DePalma.
“I was very surprised when I found out he was with the Giants,” Broyles said. “He actually proved a lot of people wrong… I knew how determined Dan was and how talented he was, but once he told me about his plans after his success at Prodays and at the NFL workouts, that’s when I realized he can make it somewhere.”
But the NFL lock-out that persisted this year made it difficult for a DI athlete to break into the league, let alone DII.
DePalma had it even harder than most, splitting his time between the play books and a part-time job at his neighbor’s water company. To dedicate himself even further, his father reported in an article from The Star-Ledger, that the 21-year-old refrained from drinking soda and alcohol to ensure he was giving 100% on the field.
His devotion did not go unnoticed, as former Giants’ tight end, Kevin Boss, invited DePalma to Eli Manning’s mini-training session this past May.
“I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for hardworking, Division II kids,” Boss said in an article from The Star-Ledger. “I can relate to him.”
In spite of his adversities, DePalma’s notable pre-draft workouts, including a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, spoke for itself.
“Dan was an explosive athlete,” Broyles said. “He was very strong and possessed skills that others didn’t have. Dan was very intelligent about the game as well.”
Evidently the Giants agreed, as he was signed to the team for the 2011-2012 season this past September.
“Dan was a great athlete,” WCU head football coach, Bill Zwaan said. “He played both defense and offense for us. He was a really hard worker… I am not surprised that he has made it, but it is so hard to get to that level from a DII school. For him to make it is a great accomplishment.”
Broyles said that DePalm displayed leadership skills on and off the field, which is why he thinks he’ll have success in the NFL.
“We both studied exercise science in school and he would always take what he learned from his training at Velocity and teach us techniques to get better in the weight room. He is a very focused and determined individual and will have that underdog role to keep him going.”
Regardless of which team earned the Super Bowl victory, Coach Zwaan emphasized his pride in DePalma’s start to his NFL career,.
“It feels great for our program to have a player make it at the next level, but to have one getting to the Super Bowl is outstanding!”
Brynn Dougherty is a fourth-year student majoring in economics and finance with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at BD670913@wcupa.edu.