SPRINGVILLE — With four minutes remaining in the third quarter of the 2012 Section VI Football Class B semifinal, Justin Dewitt made the play of his life.
Springville was leading undefeated Cheektowaga 7-6, with a trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium on the line. Springville quarterback Billy Dickinson took that snap on a second down from the 10-yard line, faked the handoff and rolled out to his left. His first option, Andy Suffoletto, was covered; Dickinson saw that his second option running the backside post had some separation on his defender. Dickinson tossed the ball into a tight window and Dewitt made a diving touchdown catch.
“That play was awesome,” said Springville coach Rob Valenti. “I’ll respectfully say that it was arguably the biggest play since 1996. Without that catch, and it wasn’t an easy catch, we would not have punched our ticket to the Ralph. That was a game-changing play. That was a season-changing play. As we continue to build, it may be a program-changing play.”
A year and a half after making the play of his life, Dewitt has decided where he will spend the next chapter of his life: majoring in dietetics and playing football at the State University of New York at Buffalo State.
“There are only so many athletes that get to go on to play college football,” Dewitt said. “It’s going to be a great experience for me. I’m really looking forward to even just being on the team. I can’t wait to play with another great group of guys.”
Dewitt noted that he was impressed by Buffalo State’s facilities and its growing athletic programs. The college is putting together the finishing touches on a $27 million project to improve its athletic facilities. The Houston Gym Rehabilitation Project will be finished before Dewitt heads to training camp, in August. That facility will house a state-of-the-art fitness center, basketball, volleyball and racquetball courts. The facility will also include a new football locker room that is similar to the design of an NFL locker room.
Dewitt said he was intrigued by Buffalo State’s strength and conditioning coach, Nate Young, as well. Young works with all of the student-athletes at Buffalo State and can give them one-on-one training.
“I got to talk to him and I really liked him,” Dewitt said. “The way he works with guys really stood out to me, compared to the other schools that I was looking at.”
Buffalo State head coach Jerry Boyes has headed the program for 19 years and his team finished with a 5-5 record in 2013. Dewitt was recruited by Buffalo State offensive coordinator Christian Ozolins, and said he was impressed by the entire coaching staff.
“They way they talked me was different,” Dewitt said. “I’ve talked to a lot of college coaches the last couple years and I feel like these coaches are really committed to their jobs. They really want to win and make you a successful football player, in the future.”
Playing split-end and defensive back for Springville, Dewitt was named a Class B South Honorable Mention, as a senior. He finished his Springville career with 10 catches and 3 touchdowns, while being mainly a blocking end in Springville’s triple-option, run-oriented offense.
“I couldn’t be more excited for him,” said Valenti. “Justin is someone who has worked very hard athletically and more importantly, academically, to make this dream, to make this goal, come to fruition for himself. He’s right there, and it’s going to happen for him. I’m extremely excited for him.”
As a junior, Dewitt qualified for an elite combine held in East Syracuse. Dewitt entered a regional combine and was one of 50 athletes out of 200 participates to qualify for the elite combine. At the combine, Dewitt placed 10th overall, out of 250 athletes, in the three-cone drill and finished near the top in the other drills, as well.
“That was a great experience for me because I got to meet some great athletes,” Dewitt said. “It made me realize what it takes to get to that level and how hard you have to work. There are so many people out there.”
Despite being a 5-foot-8, 170-pound receiver, Dewitt was a member of Springville’s 1,000-pound lifting club, with his four lifts totaling more than 1,000 pounds. Valenti noted that Dewitt’s ability on the football field is sometimes overlooked.
“He’s a tough kid,” Valenti said. “He doesn’t have that dominant size, but he’s someone that makes up for that in his toughness and his mindset to do whatever it takes to be successful. I think sometimes, people underestimate him because of his height and weight. But, he has the ability to go across the middle on a slant and make a catch and he showed against Pioneer, this year, that he has the ability to throw big-time blocks.”
The toughest transition for Dewitt may be going from a run-orientated offense in high school to a pass-heavy spread offense at Buffalo State.
“I can’t wait, personally,” Dewitt said. “Coming from a triple-option offense, where we ran the ball 90 percent of the time, it’s going to be a big difference going to an offense that passes most of the time. That’s going to be a tough transition, but I can’t wait to throw the ball a little more.”
“I feel like the bird finally gets to fly,” Valenti said, with a laugh. “Justin, in a lot of ways, has been selfless, in that he wants to be a receiver and we run triple-option. On average, over the last two years, we’ve thrown the ball once every 10 plays. Being a spread offense, where you’re going to be chucking the football a lot more, he should be really excited about that and I’m excited for him, as well.”
Dewitt will be prepping for training camp the rest of this spring and through the summer, to get ready for practice in August. He has been working out at a local gym five times a week and will start running some routes with other Springville football players, in the spring.
“Through everything that I’ve gone through to get to this point, my family has always supported me,” Dewitt said. “They’ve always known how much I wanted to play college football. They’ve always been on my side and told me ‘If you want to do this, then do it. You just have to work your butt off’. They’ve believed in me and I believe in myself that college football is what I want to do in the future.”