Dean DeLeone Embracing Opportunity At Arizona State

Sept. 14, 2009

By Alexandra Zikesch - He greets me with a huge smile and bear hug from his 6-foot-2-inches, 245-pound frame. He's dressed like every athlete I know- gym shorts and a t-shirt. He declines my offer of coffee sweetly and sits in the chair next to mine asking how my day was going.

Wait, aren't I supposed to be doing the questioning?

He is Dean DeLeone, the newest, well, actually oldest, addition to the ASU football team. At the age of 26, DeLeone has quite a story to tell of his life before maroon and gold; a triumphant story of learning to grow up while serving his country.

DeLeone graduated high school in 2002 without one college acceptance letter.

'I wasn't the best student,' DeLeone said. 'And I wasn't very mature.'

It wasn't until his father, Tom DeLeone, suggested that he follow in his uncle's footsteps and join the United States Coast Guard did DeLeone give any thought to joining the service.

'Honestly, it was the last place I ever wanted to be, and I had a fear of water,' he said laughing.

DeLeone was working as a project manager while his father continued to nag him about applying. Finally, he decided to go to a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) where his physical condition was tested. He kept his fingers crossed that he wouldn't pass.

To DeLeone's wishes, he didn't pass due to a past elbow injury.

'I was secretly upset I didn't get in; I wasn't going anywhere else,' he said.

Weeks passed, and DeLeone had forgotten about the situation until he got a call from a Coast Guard recruiter saying that he was now accepted. He wondered what had changed their minds.

'The man on the phone said that I had been calling often; trying every angle to get in... yeah, I hadn't called once,' DeLeone said smiling.

It turned out that DeLeone's father had been placing those calls.

Within weeks DeLeone signed a waiver and on Feb. 24, 2003, he moved across the country to Cape May, New Jersey for boot camp.

After eight weeks of intense training, DeLeone headed back west were he was stationed at Newport Bay in Corona Del Mar, CA.

'It was grimy work,' DeLeone said. 'It put me in the real world for once and made me realize that I didn't want to do it for the rest of my life. I wanted to go back to school and play football again.'

At the time DeLeone lived across the street from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and saw an opportunity to do just that.

'I started training,' he said. 'I knew I was only going to stay with the Coast Guard for four years to get the Government GI Bill to help pay for school, and after that I was going to college to play football... I was determined.'

Four years passed, DeLeone had been working out and training, and finally walked over to an Orange Coast College practice and asked the coach if he could try out.

'Coach (Mike Taylor) looked at me and laughed,' he said.

DeLeone had great success while playing there for two years including '145 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks and a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown,' according to

'I think I could have done more,' DeLeone said jokingly.

DeLeone transferred to Arizona State for the 2009 season and earned the starting nod in his first ever NCAA FBS football game, totaling two tackles in the Sun Devil's 50-3 win over Idaho State.

With DeLeone's performance against the Bengals, Arizona State feels lucky to have him.

'He adds awesome depth to the D-line,' senior linebacker Travis Goethel said. 'He puts the pressure on.'

Junior kicker Thomas Weber couldn't agree more.

'He's going to lead our team both on and off the field... everyone on the team couldn't be happier he's here.'

Now on Pac-12 Network
4:30 PM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder