Everything was in place for the 2020 college football season to be a spectacular campaign for Dustin Huseinovic.
The Harrison native and Pace University rising junior was coming off a brilliant 2019 season, a year that saw Huseinovic garner All-Northeast 10 Conference Second Team honors, after collecting a total of 76 tackles, 55 of which were of the solo variety.
Huseinovic, the 2017-2018 Observer Male Athlete of the Year while playing for the Blue Tide of Harrison High, also had four tackles for lost yardage, two sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions and five passes defended, sharing time at linebacker and defensive back.
Soon after the 2019 season was completed, Huseinovic went right to work to get ready for 2020. He spent hours on end at FASST (Functional Athletic Strength and Speed Training), the local physical training facility located in Lyndhurst that has been a godsend for several local athletes, including eight former Observer Male Athletes of the Year and seven former Observer Female Athletes of the Year.
“I felt like I was bigger and stronger than ever,” Huseinovic said. “I felt like I was ready to play 1000 percent. I felt as strong as I ever felt, as strong and as fast as I ever was. I was ready to go.”
And the Setters were pumped to have a season to remember, after ending the season on a high note with a victory over Southern Connecticut State last November to finish the year with a 6-4 record, just missing an NCAA College Bowl Series (formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA) playoff berth.
“We had some of our key players coming back after being out with injury,” Huseinovic said. “We had some nice incoming freshmen who were going to help us.”
All the pieces were in place, or so it seemed. The Setters looked to be solid, led by their defensive buzz saw from a place that then-United States President William Howard Taft called “the beehive of Industry” during a visit to Harrison in 1912, with more than 6,000 people watching and listening.
It was going to be a great college football season for the Setters of Pace. Nothing could stop the Setters.
But then, disaster struck – and struck real hard.
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March and just spread like wildfire across the country. While the virus has been controlled somewhat in most of the states, especially New York and New Jersey, it has not been tapered enough to play college football, especially on the smaller scale.
So with that in mind, Pace University has announced that the school will not participate in any fall sports this year, meaning that Huseinovic and his teammates will have to wait to get back onto the field again.
Pace University officials have announced that they have tentatively planned to bring football back in the spring, a move that Huseinovic applauded.
“Not playing this fall was devastating,” said Huseinovic, expected to be a team leader this year for the Setters. “We put all the work in during the offseason and now this. But on the positive side, this gives us more time to prepare for the spring.”
Huseinovic left for school Monday and will begin to take a full semester of classes.
“It’s like a hybrid,” Husenovic said. “Half will be online, but the other half will be in class in small groups.”
The same will be with football workouts.
“It will be in small groups (by position) or it will be with the guys you live with,” Huseinovic said. “I’m not going to lie. Not playing this fall definitely hurt, but I’m not choosing to look at the negative side. I’m staying positive. Everyone has to deal with something. I’m dealing with this in a positive.”
So with that in mind, Huseinovic went to weekly workout sessions outdoors at the Lyndhurst Recreation facility with the staff of FASST (namely Paul Johnsen and Ryan Marshall) as well as other top local athletes like Petey Guerriero of Lyndhurst, who last week had a workout session with the New York Jets, and Brian Kearns of North Arlington, who is entering his senior year at Stonehill College.
“I love Brian,” Huseinovic said. “We work well together. I work out with Petey a lot. I try to keep up with him, but it’s useless. I think we motivate each other and push each other. I think it helps me because he’s always a step ahead of me. We have a good group there and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Huseinovic said that his offseason regimen is going to help him in a lot of ways.
“It definitely helps my confidence for sure,” Huseinovic said. “I feel really confident moving forward.”
As for his Pace teammates, Huseinovic said that he has been in touch regularly.
“We do Zoom meetings,” Huseinovic said. “Especially in the spring, we worked with our coaches and stayed in touch a lot.”
The NCAA has announced that all college student-athletes will receive an added year of eligibility because of the pandemic.
“I am definitely going to take advantage of the extra year,” Huseinovic said. “I will hold back a couple of classes.”
Huseinovic is majoring in business management with a minor in fashion marketing – an interesting combination.
“I want to get involved in either sports apparel or urban clothes,” Huseinovic said. “I’m really open to see what’s out there and what I can do. I just have to get my foot in the door.”
So if the Setters are back playing competitively in the spring, then Huseinovic will be good to go.
“We have a very good team, whenever we do play,” Huseinovic said.
Some of his teammates include kicker Benny Franchino of Lyndhurst and his Lyndhurst teammate Paul Cimicata and Harrison native J.J. Scocco, who played his high school football at St. Peter’s Prep.
“J.J. and I have been the best of friends since we were like four years old,” Huseinovic said. “We’ve always been very close. It’s great to have him here with me. With the addition of the freshmen, I just have to play the role of being a leader as best as possible and push the others.”
You can be rest assured that Dustin Huseinovic will do exactly that.
Harrison native Dustin Huseinovic, the 2017-2018 Observer Male Athlete of the Year, is shown here in action at Pace University, which just recently announced that it will not play football this fall and will push the season to the spring of 2021. Photo courtesy of Pace athletic communications
2019: Named to the NE10 All-Conference Second Team…Appeared in all 10 games, making nine starts…Totaled 76 tackles, 55 solo tackles, 4 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, and two interceptions and five pass defenses…Tallied multiple tackles in every game, including a career-high 12 against Assumption on Oct. 12…Made the NE10 Weekly Honor Roll three times (9/16, 10/14, 10/28).
2018: Appeared in all 10 games… Named to both the NE10 All-Conference Third Team and All-Rookie Team… Totaled 48 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, and an interception… Tallied multiple tackles in every game, including a season-high 11 against SCSU on Oct. 27th… Also had an interception against SCSU, and was named the NE10’s Defensive Player of the Week following the win… Totaled 23 tackles over Pace’s final three games…Earned recognition on the NE10’s Fall and Spring Academic Honor Rolls.
High School: Three time All-NJIC performer… Made 304 tackles and 44 touchdowns throughout high school career… Named the Observer Athlete of the Year in 2017.
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”