Dane Pizzaro has been a soccer player his entire life.
Pizzaro is a senior at Father Judge High School, and for the past four years, he was a key contributor on the Crusaders soccer team that has had plenty of success in the Catholic League.
And the Bensalem defender was a huge part of that success.
The Crusaders were unbeaten in the spring of 2021 when Judge opted to sit out Catholic League play and compete against Public League schools in the spring due to the pandemic. Then he helped Judge make three straight championship games, including this year where the Crusaders were undefeated heading into the PCL championship game.
But despite all that success, Pizzaro has turned the page on his soccer career. But don’t worry, he’ll still be busy in the fall.
“I never really thought about playing football, but one day I was at football practice, watching, and my teammates from the soccer team were trying field goals for fun,” Pizzaro said. “My coach called me over and told me to try a few. I made three in a row from 50 yards out. The football players saw it and told me to come out, and that’s kind of how it all happened.
“I never practiced it on my own. Nothing. I never thought about doing it. It was the first time. I wasn’t good right away. It took about four or five months to really get comfortable. But junior year, I was the main kicker and I was the main kicker after that.”
Now here’s the kicker.
No, really, he’s now a kicker, not a soccer player.
Despite coming from a family of soccer players, and his pedigree as a great soccer player, a four-year varsity player and one of the top players on one of the top programs in the area, instead of playing soccer in college, he’s turning to football. He’s working hard to find the perfect place to continue his kicking career. Right now he’s looking for a Division I school that will give him a chance.
He has shown plenty of promise both in games and in workouts. It’s why he earned All-Catholic at kicker in the fall, an award he also picked up for his play on the soccer field.
And the scary part is he’s just getting started and has plenty of potential he can still tap into before he steps foot on a college campus.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but Pizzaro is very excited for the future.
“It was really hard to give up, I’ve always been a soccer guy,” Pizzaro said. “I thought about going for soccer, I played for an MLS Next team before high school and in high school, I did all three, high school football, soccer and club soccer. I was going to do both in college, but I made the decision to play football. That’s why I played club soccer, to get ready for college, so I stopped playing to focus on football.”
While soccer isn’t in his future, he’s very glad it’s in his past.
He comes from a family of soccer players, including his dad who was his first coach and taught him a lot about the game.
His sister Keara is playing at Temple. His other sisters Celeste and Ava both were going to play college, but injuries derailed their careers.
That only motivates him.
According to Pizzaro, his family is a huge part of his story, and he’s happy he has them in his corner.
“My family is a huge part of everything,” Pizzaro said. “My dad has been training me since I was 5 with soccer, every day we go out and train. And he really made me a great soccer player. He is the reason I played for the Philadelphia Union when I was younger, one of the best teams in the country. He made me a great soccer player. He’s supportive of the football journey, he helps me a lot.
“My mom doesn’t get into sports, but she’s very supportive. She’s supportive like a mom. My dad, he’s trained all three of my sisters that played soccer at the highest level. But they all help me a lot.”
Just as his coaches at Judge had.
His soccer coach John Dunlop made him a better soccer player.
Football coach Frank McArdle, along with kicking coach Luke Gaddis, made him a football player.
Pizzaro said both are key parts to his journey, and is proud of what they did together.
“JD got us to three Catholic League championships,” Pizzaro said. “You can’t do much better than getting to three. We won the Public League when we didn’t play in the fall, then we were underdogs and got to the championship. Last year, I think if we played anyone but our rival, Ryan, we would have had a better chance. Those games are always close. And this year, it just didn’t go our way.
“In football, we had a great season. We had a great team, a really good team. It was fun being part of it. We had one of the hardest schedules in the league, the record didn’t show it, but it was a great season and a fun year. The schedule was really tough. The teams we versed were really good. And we could have won a good amount of those games.”
As much as he loves Judge, he’s excited about the future, one that he hopes includes a Division I scholarship and a chance to someday make money either kicking footballs or selling homes.
“The goal is to eventually kick professionally,” Pizzaro said. “Eventually I want to get into real estate. I want to major in business. That’s what my dad does, he does a great job, I think it’s something I would enjoy.”