When Dustin Huseinovic decided to take a football scholarship to play for Pace University, the former Harrison High School didn’t know what the future held.
Huseinovic had a brilliant career at Harrison, competing in both football and baseball, earning All-North Jersey Interscholastic Conference honors in both sports. His talents enabled Huseinovic to earn Observer Male Athlete of the Year honors, becoming the second straight Blue Tide athlete to receive the year-end award.
But playing college football was going to be a big step for a kid coming from a small high school.
And there were no guarantees about getting on the field.
“I knew that I had to work hard in training camp,” Huseinovic said. “I knew that if I worked hard, I could get some playing time. The coaches didn’t promise me anything. I had to work.”
Huseinovic was a standout at any position he played for the Blue Tide. He lined up at running back, slot receiver and wide receiver on offense, while playing linebacker, cornerback and safety on defense, displaying his incredible versatility.
But in college, there had to be more of a stable situation, concentrating on one position. The coaches at Pace believed Huseinovic’s future was as a defensive back, so there he played.
“I knew I would have to play defensive back and I was happy with that,” Huseinovic said. “I just like playing football, so I was happy just being on the team. I knew that playing in college was going to be harder.”
So Huseinovic put the time in long before the Settters began training camp.
“I watched a lot of film to learn all the necessary stuff,” Huseinovic said.
Huseinovic learned one thing almost instantly.
“The speed of the game was intense,” Huseinovic said. “It was all so much faster than high school. I just had to get used to the speed of it all.”
Huseinovic quickly established himself as a strong safety with the Setters and eventually gained a starting position there, playing alongside fellow Hudson County native Harrison Fernandez, the former Union City High School star.
“I definitely like that position,” Huseinovic said. “It’s a lot of fun playing with Harrison. We’re the Hudson County connection.”
Huseinovic quickly established himself as a defensive force for the Setters, registering 48 tackles, including three sacks. He also had one interception.
In one late season win over Southern Connecticut State, Huseinovic had 11 tackles, an almost ungodly total for a safety. His performance that week earned him the Northeast 10 Defensive Player of the Week.
Huseinovic helped the Setters post a 7-3 record, the program’s best record since moving up to the NCAA Division II ranks a decade ago.
And Huseinovic’s performance was certainly not overlooked by the opposition in the league. Huseinovic earned All-Northeast 10 Conference Third Team honors and a spot on the All-Northeast 10 Rookie squad.
Not bad for a kid from Harrison.
“I’m really happy with the results,” Huseinovic said. “I’m glad that I put the work in. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, because I worked so hard.”
Huseinovic was asked what the main qualities he possessed to succeed on the college level.
“I would have to say my aggressiveness and my football IQ,” Huseinovic said. “I think they’re the main things that helped me.”
Huseinovic said that he was pleased to earn all-league and all-rookie honors.
“I’m just way thankful,” Huseinovic said. “It’s a great honor to get acknowledged. It means a lot to me. I’m very thankful to be in the company of other players who made the all-league team.”
Now that the season is over, Huseinovic can start to plan for the next three seasons. He also knows in his heart that he has a bright future – and two more years of playing with his fellow Hudson County brother in Fernandez.
“Harrison is one of my best friends on the team,” Huseinovic said. “We’re the Hudson County connection.”
Huseinovic has a permanent role with the Setters. The uncertainty that he experienced back in July and August is long gone.
“I think getting the taste of success definitely helps me,” Huseinovic said. “I can now become an even better player if I work on the things that I can improve upon.”
Huseinovic has already begun preparations for the future.
“I’m doing more film watching,” Huseinovic said. “I can increase studying other teams. I also definitely want to get bigger and stronger in the offseason. We went 7-3 and lost a couple of games late. Next year, I think we have a shot to win the conference. That would be great.”
Needless to say, the kid from Harrison, the reigning Observer Male Athlete of the Year is doing pretty well for himself, thank you very much.
“It was definitely a great season,” Huseinovic said. “I definitely had a lot of fun.”
Chances are that the coaching staff at Pace University had a lot of fun watching Dustin Huseinovic develop into an all-league defensive back. And the people in Harrison are truly enjoying their native son becoming a star.
Harrison’s Dustin Huseinovic was selected to the All-Northeast 10 Conference team as a defensive back and made the league’s All-Rookie team as well. Photo courtesy of Pace University sports information department.