If you want to doubt Dom Maggio, go ahead.
If you want to think he’s not tall enough to be a good fullback, try to get past him.
If you want to believe you’re tougher than him, well, good luck with that one.
The rest of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference stopped thinking that way about IUP’s 5-foot-6, 200-pound fullback a long time ago.
“Nobody,” said IUP left tackle Byron Dovales, “is that stupid anymore.”
At one time, most teams probably were dumb enough to doubt Maggio’s ability. But since he first cracked the starting lineup two years ago, coaches and players have slowly figured out that Maggio’s stature doesn’t hinder him as he leads the way for the blockers in the Crimson Hawks’ ground attack.
In fact, he would say it’s been the story of his life.
“I have been doubted all my life,” Maggio said Saturday after he helped IUP gain 303 yards on the ground in a 62-3 thrashing of Millersville. “It’s been a constant thing throughout high school and college. But I just try to do my best to get the job done.”
The diminutive Maggio has been getting the job done since he caught head coach Curt Cignetti’s attention as a redshirt freshman two years ago and began getting more and more playing time. He’s been a mainstay in the lineup since, and he’s been one of the constant forces that helps IUP run the football better than most NCAA Division II teams.
“He’s just a real tough guy who loves football,” said Cignetti. “He just loves contact. He’s a throwback. He loves blocking people. He shows up ready to go every day.”
The third-year coach said he “absolutely” doubted Maggio’s ability when he met his team for the first time after being hired away from Alabama in January 2011.
But it didn’t take long for him to see the potential Maggio had — because his height could be seen as an advantage, not as a detriment.
“It allows him to play low,” Cignetti said. “He doesn’t have a problem getting pad under pad. In fact, a lot of people have started cutting him because they know they’re not going to get under him.”
Dovales, a senior and four-year starter, said he admires how Maggio plays so well within the rules of the game.
“He’s the enforcer,” Dovales said. “He strikes fear in people’s eyes, but legally. Football is changing with all these rule changes, but he can do it legally. He goes in there and he knocks people out. He’s a huge part of our offense. He’s wearing people down for us. He might be small, but he packs a punch.”
With Maggio in the lineup, the Crimson Hawks have been a dominant running team. Since his freshman season, IUP has averaged 225.1 rushing yards per game and won 24 of a possible 29 games.
Maggio takes pride in those numbers, and he relishes the games when IUP tailbacks De’Antwan Williams, Erik Finklea, Izzy Green and Patrick Ferguson gain big yardage — like they did Saturday, when they averaged 6.6 yards per carry against winless Millersville.
“I just tell them to follow me,” Maggio said. “The least I can do is give them my all. I just know what I have to do and I do it.”
And although he’s still just a redshirt junior, Maggio has a long road ahead before his college career ends. He’s enjoyed every block along the way, but there’s one thing he hasn’t accomplished yet that he’d love to try: He’s dying to get a carry.
Although he has caught 12 passes out of the backfield, he has yet to take a handoff during a game. In fact, he said there isn’t even a call in the playbook where quarterback Mike Box hands the ball off to Maggio.
But a guy can dream, right?
“I’m appreciative of the passes, but if I could get a chance to run the ball, it would be an awesome experience,” he said. “I would love to. But my main priority is to block. I’m here to block, and that’s what I’m doing.”