High School Football

Hamstring rehab wasn’t easy, but hard work never scared Lynden RB Steven DiLorenzo

When Steven DiLorenzo says, “Please tell any college interested in me that I will work really hard to earn a spot,” the senior running back is as sincere as could be.

He has already displayed one of the great work ethics in Lynden High School’s history.

In one year, he went from being told he probably would not play football again to breaking Lynden’s 23-year-old record for single-game rushing with 320 yards.

Since his memorable performance in Week 3 against Steilacoom, DiLorenzo has helped lead the Lions (5-1 overall) to a 3-0 start in the Northwest Conference’s Class 2A Sky Division with more than 100 yards against state-ranked Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood, followed by 196 on only 16 carries last Friday against Burlington-Edison.

On Friday night at home, he’ll try to lead the Lions over Sedro-Woolley (5-1, 2-1), which comes off a 42-2 win over Blaine. A victory would clinch the Sky Division’s No. 1 postseason seed for Lynden.

DiLorenzo hungers to play college football — “I’ll talk with anyone who wants to talk” — but now he is focused on helping his team return to the state finals.

He’ll never forget the frustration of being on crutches with a cast on his left leg while watching the Lions lose 42-37 to Hockinson in last year’s title game — and knowing he might have been the difference.

DiLorenzo had not yet even begun the untold hours of rehabilitation he endured to recover from a gruesome hamstring injury against Archbishop Murphy in Week 4 of the 2018 season. This was only weeks after displaying his potential with 225 yards against Mount Baker in the Lions’ opener, including an 85-yard touchdown on his first varsity carry.

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Lynden running back Steven DiLorenzo (20) is tackled by Ferndale linebacker Gader Fox Sept. 7, 2018, at Lynden High School. Hard work after a devastating injury has helped DiLorenzo to record-setting performances, and Lions hope to ride their running back into the state playoffs. Paul Conrad For The Bellingham Herald

“I tore my left hamstring from the bone and had to undergo surgery,” the affable 170-pound senior said.

Doctors told DiLorenzo he probably wouldn’t play football again.

“I was shocked and scared,” he said.

He said he and his family then found hope at Everett Bone and Joint. Following surgery, he began exhaustive rehabilitation while spending part of every week day for months at Coast Physical Therapy in Lynden.

Coach Blake VanDalen said he felt DiLorenzo’s work ethic and spirit in the weight room would make a comeback possible.

“We timed him in 4.59 seconds in the 40 in summer 2018 and 4.61 this past summer,” he said, “So we knew he would be back.”

“DiLo,“ as his teammates call him, expresses deep gratitude for all who helped get him back on the field.

“Rehab was hard,” he said. “I had to sleep with my leg up, with pillows on both sides of the bed.”

He was injured playing on the defensive line, where his strength and remarkable quickness off the ball made him one of the league’s best on defense.

His strength is noteworthy — he has bench-pressed more than twice his weight.

“I’m No. 2 in the history of the school on the chart at Lynden with a best of 355 pounds,” he said humbly.

He’s also No. 3 on the incline press rankings.

“There’s all these big guys in our Top 10, and there’s Steven,” VanDalen said. “Steven leads by example in our weight room. When he’s lifting, kids stop and cheer for him.”

He recalls being stunned when he learned he had more than 300 yards against Steilacoom.

“Coach VanDalen called me on Saturday after the game. He was very excited after going over the film and he told me about the record,” he said. “I had no idea. I was shocked and surprised. I knew I probably had more than 200 yards, but I didn’t know it was over 300. I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless.”

He said it was especially meaningful to top the total of 311 by Nick Ellis in 1996.

“I had heard about him. Nick Ellis was Coach (Curt) Kramme’s favorite running back,” he said.

DiLorenzo, who has nine touchdowns and more than 900 yards rushing this season, recalled he came to Lynden with extensive youth football experience but he weighed “only about 120 pounds.”

“I got in for a few plays in one varsity game as a freshman in the playoffs,” he said. “I got a taste of varsity as a sophomore on the kickoff coverage team.”

As a junior, he was thus not well known — except to the coaching staff at Lynden — and his 225-yard debut against an eventual state 1A qualifier in Baker was a surprise. That’s what made his injury so mentally and physically painful, since he was just coming into his own.

Now that he‘s back, football is more fun than ever.

“I’m loving our team,” he said. “We really are like brothers. We knew people might doubt us, since we lost so many good seniors, so we really worked hard in the off-season.”

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.