By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
One of Ken Parise’s favorite things to do when he was coaching Pymatuning Valley was watching kids playing pickup football in front of the school while driving by. One day, he noticed one of the smaller kids running all over and around the other kids.
“I wondered, ‘Who is this kid?’” Parise said. “He was David Dick and he became a tremendous, tremendous football player for me. He was tough and a great competitor.”
Coach and player will be reunited on Dec. 9, when both become members of the 2013 Ashtabula Touchdown Club Hall of Fame class at Our Lady of Peace (formerly Mount Carmel).
For two years Dick, now 41, was outstanding on offense as a wide receiver and on defense as a defensive back for the Lakers.
As a junior in 1988, he caught 37 passes for 667 yards and nine touchdowns while snaring aerials from quarterback Sean Freeman. Perhaps as impressive, he managed to intercept seven passes. After the season, Dick was chosen as Most Valuable Defensive Back for the Lakers and was a first-team wide receiver on the Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County team.
As a senior, Dick improved on all of those totals. He pulled in 44 passes for 883 yards and nine touchdowns. In addition, he intercepted 10 passes, one of the highest totals in county history. That brought his two-year total to 81 receptions for 1,550 yards (19.1 average) for 18 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. He also recovered three fumbles and blocked one punt and one field-goal attempt.
The honors rolled in. He was selected 1989 Northeast Ohio District IV Player of the Year, East Suburban Conference Player of the Year, Division IV Associated Press Northeast Lakes District Lineman of the Year and second-team UPI wide receiver.
Dick recalls Parise’s kind words.
“I remember playing junior high football and him always bringing it up to me,” he said. “I probably weighed 85 or 90 pounds at that time.”
When Dick was in junior high at Pymatuning Valley, Brian Cross was the head coach; Parise was an assistant. By the time Dick was a 5-foot, 100-pound freshman, Cross had left and Parise had taken over the reins.
At that time, PV played in the Grand River conference, against the likes of Grand Valley and Jefferson. In his junior or senior season, the Lakers switched to the East Suburban Conference.
Even at his size, Dick, who inexplicably played guard in junior high, was a blocking back early in his high school days. His first two years of high school, he played mostly special teams.
“We were more of a running team then,” he said. “We didn’t have anybody to throw it.”
But PV did have people who could run it, primarily Christian Payne and Andy Brown. Payne was a 1,000-yard rusher.
“Sean (Freeman) came in when we were juniors,” Dick said. “Then, we went to pretty much of a passing program. I started and had 37 catches for 667 yards.”
With Dick, Mark Pittsinger and Ken Britten catching passes from Freeman and Payne, Brown and Tim Loveland running the ball and making catches out of the backfield, the Lakers had an outstanding season in 1989, 9-1, losing only to Perry.
“We would have made the playoffs if we beat Perry,” Dick said. “We missed it by just a few points.
“We averaged almost 400 yards a game,” Dick said. “Christian ran for 1,000. Andy Brown was the fullback and I was the wideout. We had a killer team. I was averaging almost 100 yards a game (in receptions). “
After his senior season, Dick moved on to Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa. (Check this), 10 miles north of Newcastle. The Titans were an NAIA Division II team. Dick began his college career as a wide receiver but was switched to defensive back as a junior and senior. He played all four years, starting as a junior.
The Titans made it to the national championship game in 1993 but fell to Pacific Lutheran in that contest.
Dick graduated in 1995, then went to work for his uncle as a bookkeeper. In 1997, he went to work for Grand River Rubber as a supervisor and has stayed there for 16 years. He was in charge of 33-40 people.
His charges make drum and paint gaskets in the harvestry and paint industries.
“We turn out 700,000 gaskets a day, on the average,” he said. “This month, we got up to 800,000. We ship them all over the United States and Canada, even to Chile.”
Dick married Janeen, who works for him, two years ago. He has two stepchildren, Bill Hosier, Jr., 22, and Joshua Tantari, a seventh grader at Pymatuning Valley. The family lives in Andover, “the heart of Ohio,” as Dick calls it.
Last fall, Dick had a near-death experience in an incident reminiscent of the one that killed former Pymatuning Valley distance-running great Dan Dunlap.
“I broke three vertebrae in my neck,” he said. “The widowmaker got me.
“On Nov. 7, I was out cutting down trees,” he said. “I cut down two. The third one fell right where I wanted it to, but when I bent down toward it, another dead tree, 17 feet high and eight inches around, fell on me, hitting me on the head.”
Larick is a freelance writer from Geneva.