Growing up in a foreign country, football wasn’t on the radar for Dima Daley. A lot has changed in his life in the last six years.
Daley has gone from an unknown commodity to a productive member for the Cardinal Newman football team. He will get another chance to play the game he has grown to love Saturday in the inaugural Metro Bowl all-star game at Irmo High School.
“These guys are great and better than guys than I play against and give me a little bit better of a challenge,” Daley said this week. “In SCISA, I had some good stats but there were some guys that were not as skilled as some public schools. I feel like I can compete with these guys and these guys are good players.”
Playing against public school players this week is a challenge but not the biggest obstacle he’s faced in his life. He was born in the Ukraine and didn’t come to the United States until 2012. Daley’s biological father and grandfather died a week apart and his mother couldn’t afford to take care of him, so he was put in an orphanage.
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Bob and Jana Daley adopted Dima and brought him to the United States when he was 12 years old.
Daley grew up playing soccer in the Ukraine but it wasn’t his favorite. His parents didn’t allow him to play football at first because they thought he would get hurt. He tried other sports and was member of this year’s Cardinal Newman state baseball championship team. Football is his priority now, even though he had no knowledge of the game when he arrived in the United States.
Cardinal Newman coach Doug Dutton remembers first meeting Daley. It wasn’t too long after Daley watched former South Carolina great and future No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney make “The Hit” on Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl.
“He said ‘I want to do that,’ ” Dutton remembers. “But he was completely raw and didn’t know any of the rules. We had to teach him everything from basic things like how to put on shoulder pads. But he has come a long way and was a three-year starter for us.”
Dutton thinks Daley might just be scratching the surface on his potential and could definitely see him playing football in college. He was 5-foot-2 when he arrived in the United States but grew almost a foot in a year’s time. He’s now listed at 6-foot-5, 207 pounds and probably isn’t done growing.
Daley had a big senior season with the Cardinals. He had 72 tackles and led the Midlands with 11 ½ sacks and also averaged 37.3 yards a punt.
“Football definitely has been a good outlet for him to harness his aggression,” Dutton said. “He has a high motor.”
As for Daley, he is hoping for a strong showing in the Metro Bowl and is open to playing on the next level.
“I would love to play college football if that is how it is supposed to be,” Daley said.
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Irmo High School
Tickets: $10. Portion of the proceeds go to the Palmetto Children’s Hospital