Gavin Dineen strived as best he could to make something positive out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a light class schedule and no football games at Drake in the fall semester, he worked out hard and added about 15 pounds. Dineen graduated from Drake in December and transferred to Indiana State, excited about the spring football season in the Missouri Valley Conference.
But 10 days ago, the 2016 Marian Central graduate found out he would have a longer wait to get back on the field. Indiana State athletic director Sherard Clinkscales and coach Curt Mallory issued a joint statement on Jan. 11 that the Sycamores would not play football until the spring.
Mallory said Indiana State would opt out of spring football for the players’ safety, feeling that playing 19 games in less than nine months was too much.
Dineen, who chose to transfer to Indiana State at least in part for a chance to play football this spring, tried to take the news in stride.
“It was a whirlwind of emotions there,” Dineen said. “I definitely was a little upset right away because I had the entire fall and summer and was working toward the spring. It’s just how hard I’ve worked, I’m tired of watching football, I just want my opportunity.
“I’m definitely hurt a little bit, but taking a step back, it does make sense. I’m saying this still wanting to play, but again, that’s a lot of games in a short amount of time. It stinks, but I was going to be here anyway.”
Dineen finished his undergraduate degrees in management and marketing at Drake, and transferred to Indiana State to earn a Master’s in Business Administration, while playing his final season of college football.
After two years as an All-Pioneer Football League defensive lineman, Dineen (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) hopes a season with Indiana State can help him get noticed by NFL teams.
With the NCAA not counting this year against athletes’ eligibility, Dineen could have played this spring and fall, giving him five college seasons (with the previous three at Drake).
“This is a challenging environment to navigate,” Clinkscales said in the statement. “I support Curt and his vision for the Sycamore football program, especially when it comes to the health, safety and development of our student-athletes. We look forward to spring practices in the coming months as we continue to work toward a full fall season in 2021.”
Mallory said he was eager to get to spring practices and get ready for the fall season.
“The difficult situation we find ourselves in is that we may not be physically ready to play with such a short turnaround,” Mallory said of the decision not to play this spring. “The well-being of our players over multiple seasons is my top priority and is what led to this decision.”
The Pioneer Football League does not award athletic scholarships and plays at the FCS level. Dineen has played against Missouri Valley schools in nonconference games. The Indiana State coaches were thrilled to grab a player of Dineen’s caliber and offered him a scholarship.
“We are extremely excited to add Gavin to our defensive line room,” Indiana State defensive coordinator Brad Wilson said. “He will be a tremendous addition to our defense and our football program with his leadership ability as a former captain.
“In the short time Gavin has been here, he has begun to establish himself amongst his teammates with his competitiveness and work ethic in the weight room. We are looking forward to seeing him on the (practice) field this spring.”
Dineen moved into a house with some new teammates and is ready for spring practices where he can get better acclimated to the program.
“I’m in the best physical shape of my life,” Dineen said. “I was adding to my repertoire. I’m ready to show all the work off, but I have to wait a little longer. I feel better (at 300) than I did at 275. I definitely feel good.
“I feel like I was able to mesh with the coaches here, what they were saying wasn’t nonsense. They’ve meant what they said and they are stand-up guys.”
Dineen played on both lines at Marian and was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team defensive lineman in 2015. He redshirted in 2016 at Drake, then worked his way onto the defensive line and was one of the PFL’s best defenders as a sophomore and junior.
Wilson said Dineen’s abilities stood out while watching his work at Drake.
“What excited us about Gavin when we watched his film was the versatility that we thought he could bring to our defensive line,” Wilson said. “He gets off the ball and plays with relentless effort and uses his hands very well. He showed the ability to consistently beat blocks and be a very disruptive player who can affect the quarterback.”