David DeRiso’s family has a long-running joke about the non-stop energy level he’s had since childhood: “When I was a kid we had a pet Dalmatian as the family dog,” he remembers. “My parents used to take me and the dog to the park all the time and just let us run around in the hopes that we’d both eventually get worn out.”
By the time he arrived at Drew, all that boundless energy had found a purpose. As a four-year starter on the lacrosse team, senior-year team MVP and an All-American, DeRiso earned first-team all-conference honors for three years running and led the team in points scoring for three out of four years, among other honors. With a career total 195 goals, 94 assists and 289 points, he is a Drew University season and career record holder.
For all his athletic success, DeRiso is quick to credit two sets of people. First and foremost, his parents, Tom and Carole DeRiso, who remained devoted to their son’s sports from day one and never wavered in their support. DeRiso hopes to follow their lead one day.
DeRiso also has a great deal of admiration for his teammates at Drew. “I owe a lot of success to the people that I played with,” he says. “We had a lot of great players in the span of Drew lacrosse. If you look at the stats, we won a lot as a team in my four years and there are a bunch of my teammates in the record books as well.”
His pure devotion to the sport and to his teammates at Drew was intense and unwavering—so much so that in his senior year, he was honored with the Harry Simester Character Award. “I came in to college lacrosse with the goal to simply play at that level and maybe win a few games—and a lofty personal goal of becoming an All-American,” DeRiso says. “That goal pushed me to stay dedicated. I hoped my motivation would impact others in a positive way, but I never realized that people around me saw that and appreciated it. The Harry Simester Award means a lot.”
The same characteristics that won him that award have helped make him a successful lacrosse coach on both the high-school and college levels, including the time he spent as an assistant coach for Drew after graduation.
DeRiso says he’s been an athlete for as long as he can remember, playing just about any sport you can think of.. Lacrosse entered the picture when he joined a club team in 8th grade, but his high school didn’t yet offer that sport. He settled for soccer and baseball—though neither was necessarily his first choice.
“I really wanted to play football, but at 5’,1” and maybe 110 pounds as a high-school freshman, football wasn’t going to work out for me,” he says with laughter. “Lacrosse had some of the same things I loved about football, and my size didn’t matter as much, but there was no team.”
Lacrosse came to his school in his second year and DeRiso quickly became a stand-out, leading them in scoring and earning All-State honors, though the young team never won a game during his time there.
By the end of high school, there was no doubt in DeRiso’s mind that he’d play college lacrosse, and Drew University—where he’d gone to lacrosse camp—was eager to have him join their team. “I owe a lot to Coach Leanos for finding me and giving me a chance to play in college,” he says. Good thing, too, as his high scoring ability helped the team win the ECAC championship in his sophomore, junior and senior years.
As much as DeRiso found his rhythm on the lacrosse field, sports are not his only passion. He’s also a musician—a drummer. While at Drew, he and three other student-athletes had a band that toured up and down the east coast, and today he says music may even have edged lacrosse out as his biggest passion. An internship his senior year led to a career in graphic design, and recently, he and three of his lacrosse club teammates started a business that allows DeRiso to design lacrosse wear for other players.
Looking back on his college career, he muses that today’s student-athletes should enjoy every minute of their time at Drew, both on and off the field. “These years are four years of the most competitive athletics you’ll ever experience. Don’t skate through; it’s a memory you’ll always have. You’ll want to look back and be proud of what you did and who you were,” he says. Looking back, DeRiso notes, that’s exactly how he feels.