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Don Liotine: Not So Humble Beginnings

July 24, 2017

 

The following is a profile on Don Liotine ’13 written by Kimberly Cataudella ’16. Kimberly is currently working on a dual major in Journalism and Religious Studies at American University. She is also a sportswriter for American’s The Eagle newspaper and is the section editor for “On the Quad” in AU’s The American Word magazine.

Liotine and the Seawolves open the season on September 2nd at the University of South Florida, a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team in the American Athletic Conference.

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Don Liotine: Not So Humble Beginnings

How five years as a Bear led to collegiate success

Don Liotine ‘13, current running back with Stony Brook University’s Division-I football team, attributes his collegiate success to lessons learned from the Stony Brook School. (He also doesn’t have any more shelf space because of his Class Night athletic trophies.)

“The Stony Brook School molded me to be humble, [showing me that] it’s what you do behind closed doors that changes you as a person,” Liotine said. “SBS taught me to stay grounded, work hard, not to accept failure and to keep pushing forward.”

Liotine came to SBS in the eighth grade, and he found himself in Bears jerseys immediately. The former football, baseball, wrestling (and even a little bit of track) star had an immediate athletic impact, and his annual sweeps at Class Night and features on the Bears’ athletic blog proved it to be true.

Liotine was redshirted as a preferred walk-on with Stony Brook University in 2013 after being scouted at his successful game against East Hampton. As the story goes, Seawolf scouts watched the running back rush over 260 yards in the first half of the game, immediately knowing that they would be asking Liotine to wear a Seawolf jersey upon his high school graduation. “Another [player] de-committed from a big school, though, and SBU decided to give him the football scholarship that they were going to give me. So, they asked me to come in as a preferred walk-on,” Liotine said.

Liotine began his Seawolf days in 2013, not realizing the difference in opportunity that he would face as an athlete without an athletic scholarship.

So many of SBU’s football players walked around with a self-entitled swagger, feeling as though they could do whatever they wanted without consequence. Their athletic scholarships and first-pick statuses boosted their egos, which Liotine neither had nor wished he had. “I was seen as a practice player,” Liotine said. What Liotine didn’t realize at the time was that his lack of a scholarship would be the heaviest contributing factor to his self-made football success.

“When I got to SBU, I thought to myself, ‘Oh man, these dude’s are pretty good!’ I didn’t feel like I belonged, so I just put my head down and worked, and I think that’s where the character [that SBS taught me] comes in,” Liotine said. Liotine made it his goal to let it be known that he was chosen to play for SBU for a reason.

Liotine’s first two seasons were interrupted by season-ending injuries in training camp. He was welcomed into the Seawolf football family with a cold bench seat due to his dual shoulder surgeries. “I figured any other person would have put his head down and quit, but I already accepted that I was at SBU to play,” Liotine said.

In his recovery time, Liotine came back to SBS to visit Coach Kris Ryan and help with the football program. “I always looked up to Coach Ryan because he was an amazing running back in college,” Liotine said. Ryan performed at running back as a Quaker at UPenn, then went on to play for the Detroit Lions, though he was cut in training camp due to injuries.

“Coach Ryan was the first coach who was looking out for my best interests.” Ryan would pull Liotine out of games when the Bears had a large lead to preserve his body, and Ryan made sure he knew how important caring for an athlete’s body really is, Liotine said. ” [Coach Ryan] made me the player I am today, without a doubt.”

While Ryan created the athlete, Mrs. Austin holds credit for shaping Liotine into the man of character that he is. Liotine calls Mrs. Austin his grandma, and he visits the Austin family once or twice a year in Florida. “Mrs. Austin took me under her wing. She taught me how to bake cookies, write a paper… Before her, I didn’t know what a thesis was,” Liotine said with a laugh. “Without her, I wouldn’t have made it anywhere. She is essentially the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Now, Liotine has a full football scholarship with SBU and is a starting player on the team while finishing his bachelors in finance and beginning his masters in the fall. “My dream is to continue these next two years as running back, get my masters degree in finance as a backup plan and try to get to the NFL,” Liotine said. “I think I’d sit well with the Patriots, they like underdogs. I’m a huge Cardinals fan, so Cardinals running back would be ideal, but I’ll go to any team that’ll take me… besides the Browns. Forget the Browns.”

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SBU

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