Fanti’s love for football began at young age

Maria Baldwin, Staff Reporter

For some athletes, the love for a sport begins at a young age and never ceases.

For Eastern Illinois starting defensive tackle Dino Fanti, the love began at age 7.

“My mom got me started in flag football when I was 7,” Fanti said. “From there I continued to play, and then through high school and college. I really liked it and wanted to stick with it.”

The strengths Fanti brings to the defense are crucial.

“Being the captain, I hope to give the team a leadership role,” Fanti said. “On defense, I’m giving them leadership on the field, to lead them by example. If I can continue to make plays, it helps keep up the morale of the team.”

In the offseason, Fanti works to strengthen his body to become a stronger force physically on the field all season.

“In the offseason I work on my body, getting it stronger and ready to play a full season,” Fanti said. “That’s one of the hardest things to do, play a full season healthy. I mostly work on endurance and strength.”

Fanti has his sights set high on his goals for his fifth and last season with Eastern.

“My goal is to be the all-time leading tackle for a loss record holder. I was pretty close at the start of the season,” Fanti said. “Team-wise we would like to win the conference and go to the playoffs.”

Fanti currently has 33 career tackles for a loss. The current record holder is Pete Catan and dates back to 1980 with 45 career tackles for a loss.

Fanti and the rest of the team is ready to tackle the rest of their conference games after defeating Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn. last weekend, 40-16.

“Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State will be pretty tough games,” Fanti said. “When another conference team you play has come close to beating a bigger Division-I team, it gives you more momentum when you play them and more incentive to win.”

Fanti looks forward to playing in front of a big crowd at O’Brien Field this weekend, which will include his parents traveling from Venice, Fla.

“I look forward to the next game, focusing week by week,” Fanti said. “I look forward to playing in front of my parents this weekend.”

The transition from high school to collegiate football was challenging for Fanti but mostly because of the climate change.

“I can remember coming here in the summer, five years ago, and it wasn’t bad,” Fanti said. “And then it started getting cold, and I wasn’t sure if this was my spot. But then eventually it got to the point where I just wanted to come back to Charleston to be with my friends.”

The defense is motivated and ready to take on Southeast Missouri this weekend.

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves as a defense. We know week in and week out who’s going to come to play and who you can count on, and that’s something you can take with you to every game,” Fanti said. “Our defense is getting closer and closer and we are learning more about each other. We can move forward with that.”

Eastern coach Kim Dameron is satisfied with the strengths Fanti brings to the defense.

“He’s a leader and an active player defensively,” Dameron said. “He’s a disruptor and makes a lot of big plays. The big thing about Dino is that he’s a leader, and he’s smart. He understands the defense, and he can be a vocal leader when he needs to be.”

Fanti’s performances thus far are key to the Panthers’ overall ability to top Southeast Missouri.

“Right now he’s being a pretty good Dino Fanti,” Dameron said. “As the season progresses, he’ll make more and more plays from behind the line of scrimmage. If he stays healthy, he’ll continue to play at the high level he’s playing at.”

Fanti is comfortable with his transition from defensive tackle to defensive end.

“What I like most about defensive end is that at any time you can make a big play in the backfield and make a big tackle.”

Eastern is set to play Southeast Missouri Saturday at 1 p.m. at O’Brien Field.

Maria Baldwin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]