Riely's Tendon-cy is to Excel

From Oct. 9, 1999 game program

Right tackle Dan Riely has played three positions in his three years as a member of the Catholic University football team. He has also ruptured the same two tendons in his right hand three times.

And three times he's had to have the center tendons in his palm surgically re-attached. But throughout the ordeal, Riely has continued to work hard at becoming a better player.

"He's a courageous guy," Cardinal Coach Tom Clark said. "He's got remarkable pain tolerance and he's been able to overcome that loss of mobility (in his hand) because of added strength due to his work ethic."

Riely, who came to CUA as a 195-pound defensive lineman in 1996, first injured his hand in January of 1997 when he fell on a jagged piece of glass. After surgery, a physical therapy program that had him stretching the tendons too soon caused them to completely sever again. Following that operation in March of '97, Riely tore the tendons once more when he caught his hand on a net while playing basketball. Another surgery was performed in June of that year.

Riely will never regain full use of his hand. He cannot fully extend his third and fourth fingers or make a complete fist. When he's pass blocking, he cannot open the hand in the classic pass-blocking position. Despite the hardships and painful rehabilitation, Riely said he never thought about quitting football: "This is why I've worked so hard - to get back."

And back he is. After sitting out the '97 campaign, Riely started at center last year. This season, the former high-school lacrosse player was moved to right tackle to take better advantage of his athleticism. "We believe our two best athletes (on the offensive line) need to be tackles," Clark said. "That's not to minimize our center and guards. We like them to be stronger, thicker guys. We like our tackles to be more athletic, with better feet. ... He and (left tackle) Puri (Garzone) have done extremely well."

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Riely said center and tackle are not similar positions.

"When you're playing tackle, you're more isolated - you're out on an island," he said. "Whereas when you're playing center, you're right in the mix of things. So you're always in contact, and you're not always one-on-one with a defensive player. And (at center), you have different schemes going to the left and the right. Whereas when you're playing tackle, you're generally blocking the guy head-up on you most of the time."

Riely, who lives in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., has in 1999 helped provide the blocking that has sprung Andrew Notarfrancesco to 10 rushing touchdowns and given the Cards the nation's 11th highest scoring offense (41.0 ppg). Riely said he likes playing on the line.

"It's a battle," he said. "You're pretty much blocking the same guy or same couple of guys the whole game. But I like it though. It's where the hard work is done. You can tell who's got more guts (you or your opponent), especially when you're on the goal line. You see who wants it more. That's where the game's won or lost-in the trenches."

Although Riely will graduate in 2000 with his degree in finance, he plans on playing his final season next year.

Said Clark: "That was great news - a tremendous shot in the arm. ... He's developed into a great player. He's worked hard in the weight room to become one of the best Division III offensive linemen in the nation."