Denig takes Burnett, Collotta awards
It was always a physical attraction for Ron Denig. The beauty of football for Denig was the big hit. And he served those up on a regular basis.
North Babylon coach Terry Manning, who's seen his share of outstanding players, summed up Denig the best: "He's one of the best defensive players I've seen in 20 years. The kid just brings it on every play. He's a hammer."
Denig, a four-year player and three-year captain, led Newfield to the school's first Long Island championship. Denig totaled 142 tackles, including 33 for a loss this season. His sideline-to-sideline play keyed the Wolverines' 14-7 victory over Garden City in the Class II title game at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
For his accomplishments, Denig won the inaugural MSG Varsity Rob Burnett Defensive Player of the Year Award at the Suffolk Football Coaches Association banquet on Monday. The two-time All-County selection also earned the Collotta Award presented to Suffolk's best linebacker.
"To be the first winner of an award named after a Pro Bowl NFL player like Rob Burnett is a great honor," Denig said. "It's been an excellent year for Newfield football and this tops it off. I share this award with my teammates and coaches."
Denig's ability to read and react and make plays drew the praise of his peers and helped him earn All-Long Island second-team honors as a junior. He led the Wolverines to a school-record eight wins in 2010 and then they were 9-3 in 2011.
"We played defense as a unit," Denig said. "We've played together for so long and we always knew what the other was doing. And if one guy missed an assignment the other guys were there to pick him up."
Denig, and senior linebackers Tom Diubaldo and Julian Santiago, were a cohesive and physical unit. "Football is about hitting people and being physical," Denig said. "And we were all in on every play. No one took a play off."
East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi marveled at Denig's nonstop motor and his ability to shed blockers and make tackles. "You had to know where he was on the field because he was always making plays," Ciampi said. "His lateral quickness helped him make stops before the play developed. He was a game changer."
Newfield coach Joe Piccininni knew he had something special when Denig was a freshman. He said that Denig was always the leader -- on and off field. "He is one of the most physical players you'll ever see on the football field," Piccininni said. "He has a special gift to play, a natural instinct that takes him to the ball. He has a keen awareness on the field of how to get to the ball, whether he takes a direct route or runs through a blocker. It'll be very different without him on the defense."
After the final team meeting, Piccininni reflected. "It was emotional," Piccininni said. "Telling those seniors they were done after these past four years was very difficult. We became a special group and loved those kids like family. There was a great relationship between players and coaches."
Added Denig: "We left the meeting and our high school careers were over. It was awesome, we went out on top."