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Tsopanides take the next step. Iowa awaits.

POSTED July 28, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


Torrington football standout, Dean Tsopanides (with his mother Darlene) signs his letter of intent to attend the University of Iowa this fall. Tsopanides, a standout lineman on both sides of the ball for the Raiders, helped advance the THS football program to new heights.

Torrington: The Torrington high school sports program has gotten used to sending standout athletes off to large, Division I schools this year.

Sarah Royals (U-Albany) and Ray Cswerko (U-Maryland) had each been in the THS library when they signed their letters of intent to go to their respective schools this fall.

Add Raider football standout Dean Tsopanides to the list.

Tsopanides, one of the most fierce competitors you will ever find on the field and a gentleman off, will be a Hawkeye this fall as he joins Big Ten powerhouse Iowa.

“We have always told our kids to dream big,” head coach Dan Dunaj said as he spoke of his star lineman, “Dream bigger than Torrington. Dean took that dream and made it come true through hard work.”

Tsopanides becomes only the second football player in THS history to go to a BCS-eligible school (Scott Langeheim went to Syracuse) and will play for a team that is usually ranked in the top-25 each year. 

When Tsopanides was a freshman, the team went 1-9 but advanced over the next three seasons under the guidance of Dunaj and his staff.

The lessons and hard work paid off for Tsopanides and his teammates as they posted a 7-3 record in 2011.

“We have come light years from where we were,” Tsopanides said, “The players bought into what coach was teaching and it paid off.”

This was one player you had to watch, even before the game started.

Tsopanides could always be seen at the 50-yard line before each game just before the captains met at mid-field.

He would be about five yards removed from his team on the field, staring at the opposing team while moving back and forth.

Sizing them up for what they were about to get; four quarters of hurting, hard bounding football from both sides of the ball.

This was a young man who balanced weight-training, games and his school work best he could and it has paid off.

His teammate and good friend, Zach Schebell, was on hand to see his buddy take the next step, one he helped him make.

“I consider Dean a brother,” Schebell said, “We worked hard over the past five years and I feel like a part of me is going off to Iowa with him.”

Schebell was built in the same mold as Tsopanides, a hard working, you-are-going-to-know-you-were-just-hit kind of player, who loved to run over people at linebacker and running back.

Schebell will be attending Norwich University in Vermont this fall and will be seen on the gridiron as well, but he is looking forward to following his Raider teammate.

“I can’t wait to see him play on television, Schebell said, “I’ll be on the phone with him on Saturdays asking him who he has run over or who has run over him.”

Tsopanides is not looking to sit around during his freshman year and looks to take what made him so successful in Torrington, with him at the next level.

“I’m not the biggest kid out there,” Tsopanides said, “Never was, but it’s not always the biggest that end up being the best.”

It’s impossible to judge the size of one’s heart and this Raider has always had a huge one and the underdog role works just fine for him.

“I don’t care if the teams take me lightly or don’t consider me a threat,” Tsopanides said, “I love that. I just can’t wait to get down there and start hitting.”

On Sunday, Torrington will say goodbye to another D-I player but the city he grew up in will be watching over him from afar.

Good luck Dean, your city and school are proud of you.

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