Merrimack’s DiStasio walks onto Big 12 roster at TCU

It didn’t take long for Chase DiStasio to realize he couldn’t just be a regular college student.

The Merrimack High School graduate, who played multiple sports for the Tomahawks, wasn’t even halfway through his freshman year at Texas Christian University when it became obvious to him he needed to get back on a playing field. After going to football games at TCU, which is located in Fort Worth, Texas, and seeing what the atmosphere was like, DiStasio decided to give his athletic career another shot.

In the spring, he tried to walk on to the baseball team, but came up short and spent the season playing for the club team. When that was over, DiStasio decided that when practice started, he was going to try walking on to the football team, which is in its first year in the Big 12.

“I was an athlete my entire life,” DiStasio said. “I knew I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me. I missed football so much.”

During his freshman year, DiStasio, who was born in Fort Worth and lived there until he was 10, made friends with guys who had already walked on, and they helped convince him it was something he should take a shot at.

“A lot of people told me I was crazy for trying out,” DiStasio said. “But I gave it my all.”

In order for his all to be enough, DiStasio knew he needed help, so he turned to a familiar face, one that he knew had the experience. When he returned to Merrimack for the summer, DiStasio met up with Joe Battista, the ’Hawks head football coach, who spent a couple of years playing college football at the University of Pittsburgh.

“My reaction was ‘go for it,’” Battista said. “Physically, I knew he could do it. The toughest thing was going to be the mental challenge.”

There is no player lower on the college football totem pole than the walk-ons, and Battista knew the coaches would put DiStasio through a lot to make sure he belonged.

“I remembered my days at Pitt, how the walk-ons were treated,” Battista said. “It was like a meat parade. They’d bring them in and try to get rid of them. In (the coaches’) minds, if a couple of them make it, they’ll be good football players.”

It almost worked. After the first week and a half, DiStasio began to wonder if what he was doing would be worth it.

“It’s a lot of time, we practice for five hours a day,” he said. “But my family put me over the edge. They were pushing me.”

Last Monday, DiStasio found out he had made the team. One of the first people he contacted was Battista.

“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am,” DiStasio said. “He pushed me to my limit and that’s what I needed. A lot of this was him.”

Including walk-ons, the
TCU roster has over 120 players on it, and all of them dress for home games. DiStasio was one of those players in uniform when the Horned Frogs hosted Grambling State in their season opener on Saturday, but it might
be a while before he sees the field.

“I’m on the scout team, pretty much helping to get the starters better,” he said. “As the season goes on, I’ll get my opportunities.”

If DiStasio makes the most of those opportunities, perhaps TCU might gain a following in Merrimack. The Frogs already have one new fan.

“I would not be surprised to see him out there, running routes for (TCU),” Battista said. “I told him if it all worked out, I’d get a hat. I’m a TCU fan now.”