A Word With: Dominic Cotterino
Rhino Charge host George Marinos recently sat down with 2nd-year Rhinos receiver/defensive back Dominic Cotterino to discuss everything from knocking down mental walls as a rookie to knocking down actual walls at work.
GM: I’m here with Dominic Cotterino of the Hanover Rhinos. You’re entering your second season with the Rhinos, what’s the most important thing you learned about competing in semi-pro football in your first year?
DC: I think one of the most important things was (learning) to not psych yourself out, because coming from high school football to playing semi-pro, some people really get hung up on the name semi-pro, thinking ‘maybe this isn’t for me, maybe I don’t have the skill to play at this level’. But when it comes down to it, you’re just playing football. Just get out there and do what you love, and do what you’re good at, and it comes naturally.
GM: It came pretty naturally to you your first season, as you now place 12th in Rhinos’ history for career all-purpose yards. How would you rate your first season?
DC: I would have to rate it at a C, because, for my first time ever starting, I was learning a lot, and using what I learned in my game. I know that I am capable of so much more than that, and I am excited to show it this season and go up even more on the all-purpose yards list.
GM: You got to play with two of your high school friends, Alex and Jack Isennock last year for the Rhinos. How special was this experience?
DC: They were great, I think the addition of us three to the Rhinos really added some depth at some key positions, and it was great to have some familiar faces out there as we all transitioned to the semi-pro level.
GM: How much are you going to miss playing with Alex, who deployed this winter?
DC: I am going to miss him a lot, he is one of my brothers. We have a small group of friends that all call each other family, so to not have him around for the next 4 years will be tough, but I’m proud of him and I know he’ll come back in four years. You never know, maybe we will play together again when he gets back.
GM: Are you going to do anything special to show support for him on game days this year?
DC: Well, I always support our troops, from my grandfathers being in (the military). Just having respect for those men, they give the biggest sacrifice, and I always stand by my flag. I don’t want to give anything away, but all I can say is, my first touchdown this year will be special for more than just one reason.
GM: How awesome would that be if your first touchdown came in the first game of the year, at Byrd Stadium where the Maryland Terrapins play?
DC: That would be like a dream come true. Maryland is my favorite college and as a kid I wanted to play there. The only better thing would be playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
GM: What’s your favorite Terps memory growing up?
DC: I liked watching Torrey Smith go through college and then see the Ravens pick him up in Baltimore, and have him become a great player for us there, too.
GM: I remember hoping for the Dolphins to draft certain players in various drafts, and being pretty excited when they did. Were you monitoring the draft closely in 2011, and how did it feel when you found out Smith was becoming a Raven?
DC: When you look at the 2011 draft and see the names that were there, it’s amazing how many of them turned out to be the best players in the league now. I love that we got Jimmy Smith, first round, and Torrey Smith, second round, filling the two biggest needs I think we needed coming into the next year, and it was cool to see a Maryland guy come to Baltimore so he could stay in his hometown. That’s a dream of mine.
GM: Being from Maryland, it was an interesting choice for you, Alex, and Jack to choose the Hanover Rhinos. How far do you drive to get to team events?
DC: 45 minutes, but, for football, Alex, Jack, and I would drive halfway around the world because we just love the sport.
GM: What was it that made the Rhinos the perfect fit?
DC: Really, the reason we fit in was that, when we came to try out, we were treated the same as everyone else, that we had the chance to start if we were good enough. When we were all in high school, it wasn’t like that. It was already kind-of predetermined who would start (in school) just because they started before.
GM: How did you hear about the Rhinos, and why did you decide to tryout?
DC: I heard about them over Facebook, and I followed up with the post and talked to some people to find out when tryouts came. Alex, Jack, and I talked about it, and decided we would try out and see what it was like, because it’s always a no unless you try.
GM: What were your expectations as you walked up to the field for the first time for tryouts?
DC: I was expecting everyone to be dressed in full pads, ready to hit, do full contact and really show what you had. We all came in with confidence, knowing that we’re good at what we do and that we can be here, and we can compete with these guys.
GM: Describe the first tryout and how things went.
DC: When Alex and I pulled up, we were listening to some pump-up music to get us in the football mood. When we got on the field, we started to talk to some guys and the coaches to just see what was going to happen that day. Then we got right into running routes and catching the football. I think we both had a great day, and so did the coaches. They said that we had great skills and (the coaches) were excited to see us come out to tryout for the team.
GM: You mentioned high school a little earlier. Take us through life at Hereford High School.
DC: Well, in high school, we had one of the best teams out there. When I tried out for the team, there were so many people at my positions and I don’t feel like I was given a fair chance to show what I had. They would just pick the guys that started the year before, and not give a second thought about it. Even with that, I loved playing for my high school, and am happy I did, because I learned a lot.
GM: What were your most notable accomplishments at Hereford?
DC: I was pretty good at track. I started track because I wanted to get faster for football in the future, so I did indoor and outdoor. I was a sprinter and tried to do a couple of other events, but focused so much on sprinting that never got really good at other events. I raced a couple of times in states for my team.
GM: Where did you travel for states?
DC: To be honest with you, I can’t remember the exact spot, but it was in Maryland, about an hour and a half away.
GM: For those who have never competed in states, describe the whole experience.
DC: Well, it’s awesome and kind of terrifying at the same time the first time you go, because it’s cool to see all of the other schools that you compete against, but then you realize that they are here because they are as good or better then you. The one thing I hated about track was getting up to the line and waiting so long for them to get the race started, or waiting in a rely race for the first runner to come to you so you could go. When you finish though, it’s a great feeling to know you competed at states.
GM: What was it like being a member of the football team at Hereford?
DC: We were a family. We won and lost together. We were extremely hard working with conditioning and lifting. We had some very talented players. Every Thursday, we would have a team dinner, so after practice, we would all meet at the church and eat there, because Fridays were game days.
GM: And your team had a lot of success on the field?
DC: Yeah. We were beating teams 50+ to zero. And then the couple games we did lose, we would only lose by 10 points or less, most of the time less. My senior year, we were going to be great but first quarter of the first game, we lost our best lineman for the whole year. We still went 7-3 though, and only lost those games by a touchdown or less. For my school, our JV record was 7-straight back-to-back championships, never losing a game.
GM: It had to be a bit of a culture shock to go through the struggles of a 2-8 team last season with the Rhinos.
DC: Yeah, it was different to have that happen, and there were some times last year that I may have lost my temper because of some losses that we had, but I think that this year, with the new talent that we have, and what has become of the players last year, I have no doubt in my mind that we will have a great season this year, and I am very excited about that.
GM: You are an intense competitor, and, as you mentioned, we saw that emotion bubble up from time to time. Where does that drive come from?
DC: To be honest, it’s just the way that I am wired. I love to be competitive, and I always have. There has not been a time in my life since I was able to walk that I have not been involved with at least one sport. I have played soccer ever since I could walk, and still do sometimes today. I played baseball in elementary school and football, and track in high school while still playing soccer the whole time. Twice a week I would leave football practice that was 2 hours and go straight to a 2 hour soccer practice. I just love playing sports and being active.
GM: How rewarding would it be to go to the playoffs and beyond with this 2017 Hanover Rhinos team?
DC: That would be amazing and a great feeling to get to the playoffs this year, and I think we can. We have some real talented players on this team and if we work as a team, I think we can beat anyone.
GM: You’ve been working with a new quarterback this year, at least he’s new to you. What’s it been like catching passes from and working with Chase Scharf?
DC: Great. We are getting a good connection down between the both of us and we both are beginning to trust each other. For me, I know he can fit the ball in there and, for him, that he can trust me to catch whatever he puts near me. So I hope if he ever feels like he just needs to throw the ball up, he throws it my way.
GM: In the Santa Bowl exhibition in December, you recorded your first career interception and also your first touchdown. What was each of those moments like?
DC: It felt different. I mean, to finally get one in something other then practice or backyard. (Chuckles). But I knew it’s always been in my ability to get them, but to actually do it felt great. I did not really know what to do after I caught that touchdown. I was just making sure the ref called it in before I celebrated. I can’t wait to get them in a real game this season.
GM: Never got a chance to interview you about the touchdown because you suffered an injury later in the game. The touchdown came on a pretty remarkable end of half sequence that involved multiple timeouts by both teams, and the original plan was to kick a field goal. It ended up being an all or nothing play on the last snap of the half. Talk about the sequence, the play, and the remarkable catch.
DC: Coach said in the huddle that it would be up to a vote, kick it or throw it, and of course, we all wanted to go for more points. And I said, ‘just look for me in the back of the endzone’. And luckily (quarterback Jake Orner) threw it to a perfect position that I could jump over the corner and grab it, and toe tap my feet before I went out of bounds. The catch was a good catch, but it’s something that should be expected of me because I am a starter, and starters need to make the top plays when there’s no time left on the clock. But I can’t take all of the credit, because the whole team played great that day. I was just one part of the pie that ended in the W.
GM: Alex and Jack are in the demolition business. Do you do work with them?
DC: I used to work with them, and it was a good job for us all to keep us in shape.
GM: What’s the craziest thing that happened on that job?
DC: There was one day at the job where I had just showed up to work extremely angry, and my boss went to Alex and asked him,’hey, what’s wrong with him’. Alex just said, ‘he is just ticked-off about something that happened yesterday’. So my boss came up to me with a sledge hammer and said, ‘here, I want you to take down this cinderblock wall, and maybe that will help’. Well, normally you take your time and start from one end and take a couple sections at a time off, but it would not take to0 long, maybe ten to fifteen minutes. I do not remember the measurements of the wall. It was not a huge wall, but if I were to guess, I would say, like 6-8 feet long and 10-12 feet high. I said ok, and hit the wall 3 times. With the first hit, I put the whole sledge through the wall, and on the third hit, the whole wall fell down and Alex and my boss just look at themselves in shock. I turned to my boss and said, ‘here you go’, and handed it back to him. It was not a big wall, but to just take 3 hits and have it down was not what he was expecting me to do.
GM: What’s your workout regimen like to stay so ripped?
DC: Well, to be honest, lately I have not been keeping up with my workout, which I’m trying to get back into this week with the new gym. Just being able to run and make sure I get some upper body work with some benching variations and curls, and doing some cable work really makes it easier to push off the defender on the line when he’s in press coverage on me, and the running and leg workouts get me that speed I need.
GM: Thank you for your time.
Remember, you can catch a new edition of Wordy Wednesdays once a month during the offseason, exclusively on Rhino Charge. During the season, Wordy Wednesdays will run weekly.