A lot has changed for Dylan Rome.
Last year, when he was a junior, the Father Judge High School football player saw limited minutes at wide receiver and defensive back. He was a key member of the team because of what he brought to the locker room, but on game days, his job was to keep his teammates’ spirits up on the sidelines.
This year, his teammates are the ones keeping him up.
Thanks to enormous effort during the offseason that included working out and working on all aspects of his game, Rome rarely gets a break. He starts on both sides of the ball, and is contributing now with his football skills as well as his positive attitude.
“I’ve worked really hard in the offseason,” Rome said. “Mostly lifting. I put on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle because I knew if I wanted to play, I had to get better. I was in the weight room a lot. But I worked on everything.
“We had a lot of guys work out hard. I would tell everyone to work out. I tried to be a good leader. I went myself because I wanted to get better.”
That work is certainly paying off.
Not only is Rome a key player for the Crusaders, but on Saturday he was the lone captain for Judge in its rivalry game against Archbishop Ryan. And it was a great day to be a Crusader.
The Crusaders downed Ryan 38-6 in a Catholic League intradivisional game at Northeast High School. Judge jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the game and held a 31-0 lead at halftime.
To their credit, the Raiders played hard and never let Judge hit the 35-point margin, which would have put the mercy rule into effect.
It was an important win for the Crusaders, who started off the season 0-2, losing both games by a combined four points. It also was a revenge game after the Raiders knocked off the Crusaders last year.
“This was a big win for us because you always want to beat Ryan,” said Rome, who lives in Mayfair. “They’re a good team. And we knew we were better than (the 0-2 start). We knew we were going to start to win. We have a really good team.”
The start certainly wasn’t the way the Crusaders wanted to start the season, but it actually may have brought the team closer.
“We made some mistakes, but I was really happy with the way we handled it,” said Judge coach Frank McArdle. “There was no finger pointing. Everyone wanted to get better. Take nothing away from the two teams who beat us, they’re good teams, but we thought if we made a few plays, we could have won.”
This week, the Crusaders will vote on who will lead the team as captains, but in the game against Ryan, Rome got the nod.
“It meant a lot,” said Rome, who made four tackles and broke up a pass against Ryan. “I was a captain today, and that’s something I knew I wanted to do this year, take on a leadership role. I think I can be a good leader. I think we have a lot of guys who can be good leaders.”
“We will pick captains this week, but the way Dylan has been working in practice and he is a good leader so we had him go out for the coin toss.”
This is a huge year for Rome because as of right now, this will be his final year playing football.
He’s leaning toward picking up a trade after high school instead of going to college. That means when this season is over, it will mark the end of his playing days.
“I don’t think I’m going to college so I’m not looking at playing in college,” said Rome, who worked as a barback at Macaroni’s. “I really want to have a great year this year.”
Beating Ryan was a good start.
Judge still has a lot of tough teams left on the schedule. Up next are nonleague games against Frankford and Penn Charter. After that, it’s into the Catholic League Red Division schedule, which features games against Archbishop Wood, St. Joe’s Prep, La Salle and Roman Catholic.
There aren’t many easy wins on the schedule, but the Crusaders are ready.
“We knew we weren’t done after the first two games,” said Rome, who registered two catches for 26 yards in Judge’s loss to Pope John Paul II, but was mostly used as a blocker against Ryan. “We knew we had a really good team. We really wanted to win those games, they were close, and we had to be better. But we knew we could be good.”
And just as he did in the first three games of the season, he’ll be happy to do whatever the Crusaders need.
“I’ll do anything we need,” said Rome, whose father Joseph Rome teaches business at Judge. “I worked really hard (during the offseason) because I wanted to help. I’m happy to play offense and defense.
“I’m trying to be a better leader. I’m working to get better. We all are.”