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Dustin Huseinovic | PACE UNIVERSITY

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The Observer featured Pace University athlete Dustin Huseinovic in "Pandemic pushes grid season back for Harrison’s Huseinovic, Pace University"


The Observer featured Pace University athlete Dustin Huseinovic in "Pandemic pushes grid season back for Harrison’s Huseinovic, Pace University"

Everything was in place for the 2020 college football season to be a spectacular campaign for Dustin Huseinovic.

The Harrison native and Pace University rising junior was coming off a brilliant 2019 season, a year that saw Huseinovic garner All-Northeast 10 Conference Second Team honors, after collecting a total of 76 tackles, 55 of which were of the solo variety.

Huseinovic, the 2017-2018 Observer Male Athlete of the Year while playing for the Blue Tide of Harrison High, also had four tackles for lost yardage, two sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions and five passes defended, sharing time at linebacker and defensive back.

Soon after the 2019 season was completed, Huseinovic went right to work to get ready for 2020. He spent hours on end at FASST (Functional Athletic Strength and Speed Training), the local physical training facility located in Lyndhurst that has been a godsend for several local athletes, including eight former Observer Male Athletes of the Year and seven former Observer Female Athletes of the Year.

“I felt like I was bigger and stronger than ever,” Huseinovic said. “I felt like I was ready to play 1000 percent. I felt as strong as I ever felt, as strong and as fast as I ever was. I was ready to go.”

And the Setters were pumped to have a season to remember, after ending the season on a high note with a victory over Southern Connecticut State last November to finish the year with a 6-4 record, just missing an NCAA College Bowl Series (formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA) playoff berth.

“We had some of our key players coming back after being out with injury,” Huseinovic said. “We had some nice incoming freshmen who were going to help us.”

All the pieces were in place, or so it seemed. The Setters looked to be solid, led by their defensive buzz saw from a place that then-United States President William Howard Taft called “the beehive of Industry” during a visit to Harrison in 1912, with more than 6,000 people watching and listening.
It was going to be a great college football season for the Setters of Pace. Nothing could stop the Setters.

But then, disaster struck – and struck real hard. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March and just spread like wildfire across the country. While the virus has been controlled somewhat in most of the states, especially New York and New Jersey, it has not been tapered enough to play college football, especially on the smaller scale.

So with that in mind, Pace University has announced that the school will not participate in any fall sports this year, meaning that Huseinovic and his teammates will have to wait to get back onto the field again.

Pace University officials have announced that they have tentatively planned to bring football back in the spring, a move that Huseinovic applauded.

“Not playing this fall was devastating,” said Huseinovic, expected to be a team leader this year for the Setters. “We put all the work in during the offseason and now this. But on the positive side, this gives us more time to prepare for the spring.”

Huseinovic left for school Monday and will begin to take a full semester of classes.

“It’s like a hybrid,” Husenovic said. “Half will be online, but the other half will be in class in small groups.” The same will be with football workouts.

“It will be in small groups (by position) or it will be with the guys you live with,” Huseinovic said. “I’m not going to lie. Not playing this fall definitely hurt, but I’m not choosing to look at the negative side. I’m staying positive. Everyone has to deal with something. I’m dealing with this in a positive.

So with that in mind, Huseinovic went to weekly workout sessions outdoors at the Lyndhurst Recreation facility with the staff of FASST (namely Paul Johnsen and Ryan Marshall) as well as other top local athletes like Petey Guerriero of Lyndhurst, who last week had a workout session with the New York Jets, and Brian Kearns of North Arlington, who is entering his senior year at Stonehill College.

“I love Brian,” Huseinovic said. “We work well together. I work out with Petey a lot. I try to keep up with him, but it’s useless. I think we motivate each other and push each other. I think it helps me because he’s always a step ahead of me. We have a good group there and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Huseinovic said that his offseason regimen is going to help him in a lot of ways. “It definitely helps my confidence for sure,” Huseinovic said. “I feel really confident moving forward.”

As for his Pace teammates, Huseinovic said that he has been in touch regularly. “We do Zoom meetings,” Huseinovic said. “Especially in the spring, we worked with our coaches and stayed in touch a lot.”

The NCAA has announced that all college student-athletes will receive an added year of eligibility because of the pandemic. “I am definitely going to take advantage of the extra year,” Huseinovic said. “I will hold back a couple of classes.”

Huseinovic is majoring in business management with a minor in fashion marketing – an interesting combination.
“I want to get involved in either sports apparel or urban clothes,” Huseinovic said. “I’m really open to see what’s out there and what I can do. I just have to get my foot in the door.”

So if the Setters are back playing competitively in the spring, then Huseinovic will be good to go.

“We have a very good team, whenever we do play,” Huseinovic said.

Some of his teammates include kicker Benny Franchino of Lyndhurst and his Lyndhurst teammate Paul Cimicata and Harrison native J.J. Scocco, who played his high school football at St. Peter’s Prep.

“J.J. and I have been the best of friends since we were like four years old,” Huseinovic said. “We’ve always been very close. It’s great to have him here with me. With the addition of the freshmen, I just have to play the role of being a leader as best as possible and push the others.”

You can be rest assured that Dustin Huseinovic will do exactly that.

Read the Observer article.

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"The Observer Online" featured Pace University's defensive football player Dustin Huseinovic in "Harrison’s Huseinovic enjoys great freshman year at Pace"


"The Observer Online" featured Pace University's defensive football player Dustin Huseinovic in "Harrison’s Huseinovic enjoys great freshman year at Pace"

When Dustin Huseinovic decided to take a football scholarship to play for Pace University, the former Harrison High School didn’t know what the future held.

Huseinovic had a brilliant career at Harrison, competing in both football and baseball, earning All-North Jersey Interscholastic Conference honors in both sports. His talents enabled Huseinovic to earn Observer Male Athlete of the Year honors, becoming the second straight Blue Tide athlete to receive the year-end award.

But playing college football was going to be a big step for a kid coming from a small high school.

And there were no guarantees about getting on the field.

“I knew that I had to work hard in training camp,” Huseinovic said. “I knew that if I worked hard, I could get some playing time. The coaches didn’t promise me anything. I had to work.”

Huseinovic was a standout at any position he played for the Blue Tide. He lined up at running back, slot receiver and wide receiver on offense, while playing linebacker, cornerback and safety on defense, displaying his incredible versatility.

But in college, there had to be more of a stable situation, concentrating on one position. The coaches at Pace believed Huseinovic’s future was as a defensive back, so there he played.

“I knew I would have to play defensive back and I was happy with that,” Huseinovic said. “I just like playing football, so I was happy just being on the team. I knew that playing in college was going to be harder.”

So Huseinovic put the time in long before the Settters began training camp.

“I watched a lot of film to learn all the necessary stuff,” Huseinovic said.

Huseinovic learned one thing almost instantly.

“The speed of the game was intense,” Huseinovic said. “It was all so much faster than high school. I just had to get used to the speed of it all.”

Huseinovic quickly established himself as a strong safety with the Setters and eventually gained a starting position there, playing alongside fellow Hudson County native Harrison Fernandez, the former Union City High School star.

“I definitely like that position,” Huseinovic said. “It’s a lot of fun playing with Harrison. We’re the Hudson County connection.”

Huseinovic quickly established himself as a defensive force for the Setters, registering 48 tackles, including three sacks. He also had one interception.

In one late season win over Southern Connecticut State, Huseinovic had 11 tackles, an almost ungodly total for a safety. His performance that week earned him the Northeast 10 Defensive Player of the Week.

Huseinovic helped the Setters post a 7-3 record, the program’s best record since moving up to the NCAA Division II ranks a decade ago.

And Huseinovic’s performance was certainly not overlooked by the opposition in the league. Huseinovic earned All-Northeast 10 Conference Third Team honors and a spot on the All-Northeast 10 Rookie squad.

Not bad for a kid from Harrison.

“I’m really happy with the results,” Huseinovic said. “I’m glad that I put the work in. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, because I worked so hard.”
Huseinovic was asked what the main qualities he possessed to succeed on the college level.

“I would have to say my aggressiveness and my football IQ,” Huseinovic said. “I think they’re the main things that helped me.”

Huseinovic said that he was pleased to earn all-league and all-rookie honors.

“I’m just way thankful,” Huseinovic said. “It’s a great honor to get acknowledged. It means a lot to me. I’m very thankful to be in the company of other players who made the all-league team.”

Now that the season is over, Huseinovic can start to plan for the next three seasons. He also knows in his heart that he has a bright future – and two more years of playing with his fellow Hudson County brother in Fernandez.

“Harrison is one of my best friends on the team,” Huseinovic said. “We’re the Hudson County connection.”

Huseinovic has a permanent role with the Setters. The uncertainty that he experienced back in July and August is long gone.

“I think getting the taste of success definitely helps me,” Huseinovic said. “I can now become an even better player if I work on the things that I can improve upon.”

Huseinovic has already begun preparations for the future.

“I’m doing more film watching,” Huseinovic said. “I can increase studying other teams. I also definitely want to get bigger and stronger in the offseason. We went 7-3 and lost a couple of games late. Next year, I think we have a shot to win the conference. That would be great.”
Needless to say, the kid from Harrison, the reigning Observer Male Athlete of the Year is doing pretty well for himself, thank you very much.

“It was definitely a great season,” Huseinovic said. “I definitely had a lot of fun.”
Chances are that the coaching staff at Pace University had a lot of fun watching Dustin Huseinovic develop into an all-league defensive back. And the people in Harrison are truly enjoying their native son becoming a star.

Read the article.