Farinella happy to still be playing

Mario Farinella shares a laugh with coach Danny Rocco during the Blue Hens’ spring game. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — At 23, it’s not like Mario Farinella is an old man.

Still, relatively speaking, he’s in a lot different place than his youngest Delaware football teammates.

Farinella admits he gets a kick out of watching the freshmen as they try to navigate their first college preseason camp.

“Those incoming guys are like 17 or 18 years old,” said the veteran center. “When I was a freshman in college, these kids were in eighth grade. But to me, personally, I like seeing that. I like seeing the kids when they’re young and then growing up.

“I like to watch a little bit — it’s amusing to me. … But I like being that older guy. I get picked on during team meetings — ‘Mario is turning 28 today …’”

In a different world, Farinella would be out working for a living like the rest of the guys in his recruiting class. But the serious foot injury that robbed him of playing time a couple years ago ended up having a silver lining.

Because of the injury — a lisfranc injury in his right foot plus another injury that affected him over two seasons — the NCAA granted Farinella an extra year of eligibility. So over a year after he received his undergraduate degree, Farinella is taking part in his sixth preseason camp with the Blue Hens.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder already has his ‘real’ job as a consultant lined up in Chicago for when he’s done playing.

Farinella finished last season thinking his football career might be over. He was working in construction when the NCAA notified him in January that he had another year after all.

Mario Farinella, blocking for QB Pat Kehoe, started all 12 games for Delaware last fall. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

“As soon as I got the OK, I stopped doing construction, hopped right in the car and came right back down here,” Farinella said with a laugh. “It was awesome. I’m like, ‘OK, go experience college for another year.’”

Of course, that was also good news for Danny Rocco, who will begin his third season as Delaware’s head coach when the Blue Hens host Delaware State on Aug. 29.

Farinella started all 12 games a year ago and has played in 21 contests over the last two seasons. A third-team all-Colonial Athletic Association pick last fall, he was named to this year’s All-Preseason CAA squad last month.

“I think the thing that excited me was that he was highly motivated to return,” said Rocco. “He can play center and guard and I would say that’s a huge, huge part of it, too — to have a little versatility in there.”

With Farinella back, the Hens return four of their five starters along the offensive line. The other returners include Chuka Ezeuzoh, David Kroll and Connor Lutz.

Also back are former starter Steve Robinson, who’s still dealing with an injury that sidelined him all last season, and Carter Lynch, who played in seven games last fall.

“Our offensive line is good and experienced,” said Rocco.

Farinella says his surgically-repaired foot feels fine these days — “Me and the trainers joke about it all the time. They can’t even see my scar any more.”

But he went through one four-month stretch when he had to use a scooter for his leg because he couldn’t put any weight on it.

Farinella then underwent a second operation to have screws removed from his foot.

Missing so much time in the middle of his career clearly sidetracked him.

He’s hoping his one extra season will be his best one yet.

“I had a really good year last year and I’m hoping for the same this year,” said Farinella. “It’s mid-camp, so it’s a grind. But we’ll get to the first game and hit the ground running.”

Extra points

Dover High grad Bradly Anyanwu is one of those true offensive linemen for Delaware. Wearing No. 73, he’s listed at 6-foot-3, 305 pounds. … The Hens have 27 in-state players on this year’s roster. … Delaware also has nine Division I transfers on this year’s squad.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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