UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica College football team is back on the field at Gaetano Stadium getting ready for the 2013 season, but the Pioneers are doing so with heavy hearts. Over the summer, the UC Football family lost 2012 senior tight end Matt Dunn, who passed away from an enlarged heart.
"One morning he was okay, in a couple hours he had a seizure and never really woke up," says UC senior running back Jesse Baldassare. "It was unfortunate. We definitely have him in mind, we've all got our bracelets, remembering 32, just so he knows, wherever he is, that we're out there playing for him."
"Matt was the definition of a Pioneer," adds fellow senior running back Jake Larson. "He was behind everybody's back, he was just positive, always one of the hardest workers, everyone really respected him, he was a team captain. He was just the epitome of a college athlete and a Pioneer."
"One of things family does is come together during times of adversity and our players did that. It was tough. When you lose someone that close to you, you think about them every day. He was one of the hardest working players on our team, was a dean's list student as well as a two-time all-conference tight end. Just a great kid and we think about him every day. We went down to Long Island, our players, family members, friends of Matt, you see how close the Utica College Football family is, we're very proud of that. There's no doubt all of us are working a little extra harder in honor of Matt this year.
The Pioneers are coming off their best season ever, when they tied a school record with six wins in 2012, and had their best record ever in the Empire 8, at 4-3. Baldassare and Larson are part of a combination expected to produce big results in the UC backfield this year. Baldassare was an Empire 8 All-Conference second team selection last year, while Larson is coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him all last year.
UC graduated 26 seniors including Dunn, as well as a pair of record setters, in QB Andrew Benkwitt, as well as WR and RFA grad Jeremy Meier.
Also back for the Pioneers this season is WR and New Hartford graduate Anthony Acevedo, who squared away his academic issues to get back on the field. Whitesboro grad Mike Sullivan transferred back home from UAlbany, where he redshirted last year. Sullivan is expected to play in the secondary as well as on special teams.
UC will play their blue-white scrimmage on Saturday, then open the season two weeks later, September 7th, at Gaetano Stadium against Lewis & Clark.