"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."~ Moliere
George Teague knows a little something about defensive football. After starring at powerhouse Alabama in the collegiate ranks as a safety, he was drafted in the 1st round by the Green Bay Packers in 1993. His 101-yard interception return vs. the Detroit Lions in the 1994 playoffs is still the longest in NFL post-season history.
When his second stint with the Dallas Cowboys and a successful nine-year NFL career wound to a close in 2001, Teague knew he wanted to remain in the game he loved. He also knew he wanted to remain in the area. He began coaching and serving as athletic director in the high school ranks in the region.
In 2011, the same two positions became available at The June Shelton School in Dallas. When offered the job, he immediately accepted.
“Shelton is an amazing place. The nation’s top private school for children with learning disabilities. We have incredible kids who strive hard to reach academic excellence and shine athletically.”
In one of his early film sessions with an assistant coach, George Teague noticed a defender flying all over the field.
“Who is #6? Please tell me he is coming back,” asked the new head coach.
The assistant responded, “That’s John DiCaro. He’s going to be a junior in the Fall.”
Teague just smiled.
“I knew I had a good one and I was right. John is one heck of a kid. He’s big (6’2”, 225 pounds), fast and strong with a motor that just won’t stop,” Teague gushed.
“He’s so physical. Same way in basketball. He loves banging in the paint. He loves banging people on the football field. Led our team with 105 tackles in his first year playing linebacker. Was elected captain as a junior. Tells you what his teammates thought about his leadership.”
Developmental reading disorder (DRD), or dyslexia, occurs when there is a problem in areas of the brain that help interpret language. It is not caused by vision problems.
The disorder is a specific information processing problem that does not interfere with one's ability to think or to understand complex ideas. Most people with DRD have normal intelligence, and many have above-average intelligence.
John DiCaro has dyslexia. The Shelton School is noted for its reputation in teaching strategies to excel scholastically by instilling strategies to overcome the affliction.
“The teachers at Shelton are amazing. They bend over backwards to work with you. Go the extra mile. Small classes. 8 students to a room. I credit them with all my academic success (3.3 GPA),” DiCaro told me.
Ben Luedtke is the starting quarterback at The Shelton School. Like John, Ben is a rising senior. Like John, Ben has dyslexia. And like John, Ben is a major college prospect.
“Hard-nosed. Best word I can use to describe John (DiCaro). He’s a throwback. He’s always around the ball. I love having him as a tight end because he catches everything. Presents a big target. Uses his basketball skills to block out defenders and come up with the ball.”
“On defense, he’s the quarterback of that unit. He’s a natural leader. Our captain. He commands respect,” added the 6’1”, 180-pound honor student (3.7 GPA).
What was it about football that intrigued John DiCaro early on?
“It got me the first time I ever put the pads on. The speed of the game. Being able to hit people. It was just a perfect fit for my personality,” explained DiCaro.
“I averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds in basketball and I love that sport too. I enjoy crashing the boards and knocking people around.”
And who are your idols on and off the field?
“I always admired Pat Fitzgerald (former All-American LB/head coach at Northwestern University). He was big and tough. I watch his film all the time. He wasn’t the fastest linebacker, but he was smart and hit like a train.”
“My older brother Will (19) has always been my hero. My mentor. He taught me how to go all out, to focus and how to work/train hard. He pounded into me that I can accomplish anything I want to accomplish.”
“My Dad (Joe) has been an inspiration as well. His motto is “Be a leader. Be above that.” He is always there for me,” DiCaro proudly proclaimed.
When I asked Coach Teague about John’s dyslexia and how that might impact his recruitment by major colleges, he told me, “John knows left from right. He knows North from South. And he knows how to drive an opponent into the ground. Hard.”
“John lives over an hour away from Shelton. Yet he’s never a minute late. We have kids who live down the street. They are always tardy. John is always the last to leave. Have to kick him out of the weight room. He sets an example. His dedication makes him a dream to coach.”
“I don’t think his learning disorder is going to affect him one bit at the next level. Top colleges have experts/tutors who know about learning accommodations. I expect him to have an outstanding senior season here. Whoever lands him at the university level will be getting a tremendous player and a true leader. More importantly, they’ll be landing a classy kid,” added Teague.
And where does John DiCaro see himself four years from now?
“I definitely want to play at the highest college level possible. I know I can make an impact. But right now, my focus is on finishing the job in high school. I am going to do everything it takes to lead my team to a winning season my last year at Shelton. Make my school proud.”
“I’d like to major in culinary science in college. Perhaps open up my own restaurant one day.”
The recipe to a successful existence has many ingredients and is a complicated procedure. The finished product often takes years to produce. At 17, John DiCaro’s will to overcome and maximize his potential on and off the field already makes him a master chef in the kitchen of life.