Dom D’Alessio always loved playing football.
The games, anyway.
“Practice, I always kind of dreaded it,” D’Alessio said.
The Archbishop Wood two-way lineman has come to appreciate Tuesday afternoons nearly as much as Friday nights. The senior has come to enjoy the demanding drills, the rigorous routine, even those conditioning sprints during midweek workouts.
“He’s got great perspective,” Wood coach Kyle Adkins said of D’Alessio. “You get something taken from you, it gives you a whole new view of the world.”
What D’Alessio lost was football. He missed all of his junior season with a complicated wrist injury. He even was told by his doctor that it was unlikely he would be playing in his senior year, either.
“It was a dark time,” D’Alessio said. “I even tried to sell my equipment.
“I figured I never was going to use it again.”
A starter on both sides of the football for a team with a 3-0 record and the No. 5 spot in The Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10, D’Alessio has set an example for his teammates with his focus and determination, according to his coach.
“He’s just playing on another level compared to everyone else on the team in terms of effort,” Adkins said.
D’Alessio’s unique route to his key role for one of the area’s top programs began with a seemingly minor injury to his left wrist during a freshman football game in 2016. That escalated to a condition that required multiple surgeries and threatened to end his career.
“It was really bugging me sophomore year,” D’Alessio said. “I told my mom and we got X-rays and they found a break in the scaphoid bone.”
He underwent surgery, spent six weeks in a cast, wore a brace during workouts with the team during the spring and summer of 2018. But the bone wasn’t healing.
He sat out junior year, went for a second opinion, was told he needed another surgery to remove the screw and reconstruct the bone.
He spent the first six months of 2019 with rods in his arm, immobilized by a cast above his elbow.
“I couldn’t do anything,” D’Alessio said. "But the worst was when the doctor told me, ‘Don’t even expect to come back for your senior year.’”
D’Alessio was devastated. He distanced himself from the team.
"I texted him two weeks before camp this summer to make sure he knew I still wanted him around the team,” Adkins said. “I said, 'We could really use your leadership.’
“He was like, 'I really want to do it, it’s just so hard for me to be there knowing I can’t play.’”
A week later, D’Alessio had another X-ray. This one showed the bone to be healed. He was cleared to play.
"When [the doctor] told me, ‘I don’t see why you can’t play this season,’ everything lightened up,” D’Alessio said. “My whole mood changed. My whole life changed.”
Despite not playing since his sophomore season on the junior varsity, D’Alessio has made a major impact for the Vikings, according to Adkins.
“We have three captains and we name a game captain every week and the first two weeks he was named game captain,” said Adkins, whose team will meet New Jersey’s Peddie School on Friday night before starting Catholic League play Sept. 27 at Roman Catholic.
D’Alessio has been playing football since he was 4, on youth teams in Somerton and Southampton, and for a CYO program in middle school.
He always thought he loved the game. But it wasn’t until it was taken away from him that he realized just how much he enjoyed the camaraderie, the competition -- even the daily demands of practice.
“It really opened my eyes,” D’Alessio said. “It’s just great coming back seeing my old friends that I haven’t been talking to as much.