It seems a matter of when, not if, Diego Pineda will secure a university scholarship.
The GW Graham football star spent his summer being courted by several CIS (Canadian Inter-University Sport) programs, including heavyweights like the Western Ontario Mustangs and Guelph Gryphons.
“I visited SFU (Simon Fraser University) just last Monday and they seem pretty serious about recruiting me,” the big defensive lineman added. “Guelph is ready to fly me out whenever I want, so I’ll probably head out there during our bye week in October.”
The recruiting process can be overwhelming for a high school student.
Coaches texting and emailing. All of them try to put their best foot forward, painting a rosy picture of their school and program.
“You have all these options, and if you’re really thinking about it, you don’t want to mess up and make the wrong decision,” Pineda said. “I have my family to help me, which is kind of cool. I’m trying to take it very seriously and do my research.”
Pineda has earned every bit of attention he gets. The very definition of a gym rat, when he’s not on the field or sleeping, there’s a good bet he’s working out.
“I don’t even really like to take rest days, because I feel bad about it,” he said. “It’s just this thing that’s in my head.”
Over the past two years he’s bulked up to the point where he’s nearly impossible to block one on one.
Rushing off the edge last year, he terrorized opposing quarterbacks. This year, the GWG coaching staff is going to mix it up, trying Pineda at nose tackle in their 3-5 alignment.
“My coaches like to switch it up and move me around because it makes it harder for the other team to adjust,” he said. “I have a really fast first step off the line, and it’s really hard for the center, and even a center and guard to get me. Often I’m in the backfield before they really react.”
CIS schools are recruiting him as a defensive end, but they’ll appreciate his versatility.
They’ll notice him playing at left tackle for the GWG offence this season.
Plus, he’s a key member of the Grizzly special teams. Pineda might never come off the field.
“If I have a really good season, a lot of these schools are talking about full-ride and all that stuff,” Pineda said. “It’s cool having so many eyeballs watching me. If you’d told me three years ago I’d be at this point, it would have been a shocker.”
Pineda wants to get a masters degree, probably in criminology, and eventually be a homicide detective. Doing his research, he’s found all of the schools to be in the same ball-park academically.
“The people from these programs have told me that all the universities in Canada have great education,” he said. “It’s a pretty level playing field in that way, so it’s just up to me what my football preference is.”
Western and Guelph are two of the premier programs in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics).
Guelph is a short 30 minute drive from Toronto and has sent several players on to the Canadian Football League.
“They have about eight different sets of uniforms and I kind of like that,” Pineda chuckled.
Western has a phenomenal track record for producing offensive linemen for the CFL, and won the 2013 Yates Cup as OUA champions.
But SFU has an advantage over both of them, playing NCAA football against American schools.
“They play in Los Angeles and everywhere, and this year they’re playing a division-one school,” Pineda said. “I want to play at the highest level possible.”
Another advantage would be proximity to home, though Pineda doesn’t seem bothered by the idea of Ontario.
“I think it’s kind of cool because I’ve always wanted to travel to the other side of Canada,” he said. “One of the first things the Ontario coaches ask me is if I mind moving, and I say, ‘No. I want to explore and not stay stuck in a little box in Chilliwack, BC.’”
Pineda wants to get a commitment out of the way early.
“I want to get that distraction out of the way so I can focus on school,” he said.
It’ll also let him focus on his work with the Grizzlies as the team takes aim at a provincial crown.
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