Former Harrison football star Huseinovic gets pro opportunity in Italy

For Dustin Huseinovic, the opportunity to play professional football was something the Harrison native wasn’t going to pass up. So when the former Harrison High School star and NCAA Division II All-American at Pace was offered the opportunity to play in Italy this past January, Huseinovic dropped everything to make this goal a reality.

Now, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker/safety who also plays some running back for Rhinos Milano of the Italian Football League, Huseinovic isn’t taking this chance for granted.

“To still be playing the game means the world to me!” said Huseinovic. “Not everyone is blessed enough to get an opportunity like this so I want to make sure I take full advantage of it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am to still be playing this beautiful game!”

Huseinovic was coaching, both as an assistant under former Harrison head man Dan Hicks and Hudson Catholic, as well as in collaboration with the organization “Whole 9 Bayonne” with fellow local standouts Paris Crawford and Damon Small.

Even while doing this as well as hosting the “Dustin Huseinovic Youth Football Camp” for the kids of Hudson County with Whole 9 Bayonne, Huseinovic stuck to his longtime football training regiment at FasstAnimal Lyndhurst with the hope of a call for his playing services.

Said Huseinovic, “throughout my time coaching I continued my workout regimen because I had the belief that I would be blessed with the opportunity to start my career at the professional level.”

Eventually that call came in the form of a message on X (formerly Twitter) from Rhinos Milano’s general manager.

After multiple Zoom calls with head coach Christian Nobile, Huseinovic was offered a contract, which he signed in January. Huseinovic is one the three “import” players on Rhinos Milano’s roster, the maximum allowed by the IFL.

“Dustin is a very precious player for our defense; he immediately made himself available to everyone,” Nobile said in an interview with “He has all the qualities that a linebacker needs: He’s fast, intelligent, and has excellent physicality.”

“I’ve worked pretty much my whole life to get the opportunity to play football professionally, so when the opportunity came I was ready to drop everything and go with no hesitation,” Huseinovic said. “The career of a football player is usually not a long one, so I know I have to enjoy every moment of it without any regret.”

Huseinovic, who has family lineage from Ireland as well as Montenegro, said he has greatly enjoyed the opportunity to live in Milan, comparing the Italian city to New York City.

“The adjustment to living in Italy has been smooth,” said Huseinovic. “I always tell people Milan is like Manhattan. From the public transportation, good food, fashion, business and cultural stapoint, it is like the NYC of Italy. I love it and I think most people from NJ/NY would feel the same way.”

A do-everything player at Harrison, Huseinovic scored 25 touchdowns over three seasons, while playing running back, wide receiver, linebacker and safety for the Blue Tide, highlighted by the school’s first playoff appearance in 27 years his junior season.

Huseinovic, who was The Observer’s Male Athlete of the Year for 2017-2018 due to his performances in football and baseball, went to Pace on a football scholarship. In a stellar four-year career, Huseinovic recorded 289 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks with five interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

Twice, an All-Northeast 10 Conference First Team Defense selection at linebacker, Huseinovic was an All-American Honorable Mention as a junior in 2021 when he recorded 107 tackles, including a conference-best 61 solo stops.

Huseinovic was an All-Conference honoree all four seasons at Pace and was invited to participate in the Tropical Bowl and the FCS National Bowl for hopeful NFL Draft prospects from non-Division 1 FBS schools.

Rhino Milano, which has been playing since 1976, is currently 1-2 on the season.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)