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Morris Sussex Sports and Football University are teaming up this season to present our Player of the Week award. Football University is the leading player development organization in the country that teaches players techniques to perform at the highest level possible on the field.

At the beginning of every week we at Morris Sussex Sports sit around the conference table and try to figure out who deserves the FBU Player of the Week based on the weekend’s games.  This week was especially tough because Chatham’s Alex Sands threw for 410-yards and 4 TDs in the Cougars big win over Morristown, Whippany Park’s Mark Basista caught 4 passes for 264-yards and 4 TDs in a losing effort to Mountain Lakes, and Newton’s Jaiden Elliot nabbed two INTs and a forth quarter TD to help his Braves take down Kinnelon.

Dalena flashing his FBU Player of the Week certificate as he stands with FBU Director of Player Develop Joe Bouffard.

Dalena flashes his FBU Player of the Week certificate as he stands with FBU Director of Player Develop Joe Bouffard for his incredible performance against Hanover Park.

But the player we felt was the most deserving for the FBU Player of the Week for Week 9 was Madison linebacker Justin Dalena.  Dalena was all over the field defensively but his two first-half interceptions changed his entire team’s demeanor and put Hanover Park in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.

Dalena and I talked about this week’s win, the NFL player he emulates, and what a state title would mean to his team.

George Muha: Why do you think your team had so much success against Hanover Park this past weekend?
Justin Dalena: I believe that our game plan made us so successful. Our DBs played the best I have seen all year. Mike Dalena, Jojo, P.J., and Ryan all stepped up and played unbelievably well.Our defensive line also played great, giving Donato no time to throw. Griffin, Dante, Rabel, Josh, Petar, Dom, and Zach were in his face all night. Also our middle linebacker, Max, played unbelievably well making a ridiculous amount of tackles. Offensively Nick, our QB, took control and lead the offense up and down the field with great protection from our line Jake, Yiakos, Dante, Shane, and Santi.

GM: What is it about Madison that they always seem to have tough, hard-nosed football teams?
JD: The coaching staff is the reason we are like that. The coaches really push us to be the best.

GM: What makes this particular team so special?
JD: The amount of athletes that we have and the amount of leadership and talent that the seniors bring.

GM: What player is the emotional leader of this team?
JD: Petar Haboj is the emotional leader of the team. He is the first one there to help you up when you are on the ground and can always get the team pumped to play. He also is there to protect everyone on the team and motivates them play up to their potential.

GM: Who can bunch 225lbs the most times in a row?
JD: Santi or Dom, it depends on the day.

GM: Who would finish 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the forty?
JD: Jojo Mobley, Mike Dalena, Patrick Higgins, Jon Butler then myself

GM: Who is the flat-out best athlete?
JD: Michael Martirano A.K.A. Big Cat

GM: Who would win a hotdog eating contest?
JD: The hot dog contest is tough I believe it is between Dante Chris Rabel or Jake Ducey.

GM: Who can loosen the mood with humor?
JD: Zach Shupe or Griffin both have a very subtle sense of humor. He comes out with stuff when you never expect it.

GM: What makes Coach Kubik the angriest?
JD: When we have to share the field with another sports team at the high school because it prevents us from getting everything done that we need to at practice.

GM: What’s the funniest thing ever said in a huddle?
JD: Breakfast

GM: Do you have any pregame rituals?
JD: Before games I usually do not talk to anyone. I listen to music to help myself get in the zone.

GM: Why do you wear the number you do?
JD: I wear number 31 because my older brother, Matthew, wore it and he was my idol growing up and still is. He was such a good athlete. I just wanted to live up to the same standards.

GM: What current or past NFL player do you emulate?
JD: Brian Dawkins is the NFL player I emulate the most even though it pains me to say it because I am a diehard Cowboys fan. However, I believe I most emulate him because we have the same style of play.

GM: Who is your role model?
JD: My brother, Matthew, is my role model for many different reasons. He is the nicest and most genuine person I know. He is truly an amazing human being. He was a really good athlete and leader when he played sports in high school and taught me the leadership skills I use now. Matthew always told me to play with intensity, smarts and heart. He set a great example for me and I want to make him proud.

GM: What would it mean to this team to be hoisting up that state championship trophy in early December?
JD: It means everything to this team to hoist that trophy at the end season. It is the reason we all play–to be able to say we are the best. It represents guts, determination, perseverance and an unyielding desire to be the best. All the workouts, two-a-days, regular practices, film session, wins (and losses) would mean nothing if we did not get to hoist the trophy at the end of the season. To quote Vince Lombardi, “I firmly believe that that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

GM: Congrats again, Justin, and best of luck the rest of the way.
JD: Thanks again for the honor. It’s great feeling.

George Muha has been covering high school sports since 2006. He feels high school scholar-athletes are the most important part of the community and highlighting their achievements on the field, in the classroom and within the community is his personal mission.

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