By Isabel Gonzalez
From California to Ohio, defender Dillon Nino has shown his talent on soccer fields across the country.
The 21-year-old was born and raised in Fresno. He also spent some time in Arizona when he played with the Real Salt Lake Academy during his junior and senior years in high school. He was part of the roster that won the U-15/16 Development Academy title during the 2012-13 season.
One of his coaches knew the head coach at Dayton University, and after visiting Ohio and falling in love with the school, Nino packed his bags and headed east. There, he wasted no time in showing off his talent.
During his freshman year, Nino started all 17 games he appeared in, recording a total of 1,490 minutes. It didn’t come as a surprise when he was named Dayton Rookie of the Year at the end of the season. As of today, Nino has officially appeared in 51 games for the Flyers, starting in 48 of those.
This summer, the 5’11” defender finds himself in Albuquerque, saying that his coaches in Dayton told him that playing with the Sol would be good for him. So far, Nino says he enjoys being in New Mexico, especially because of the abundance of Mexican food.
Nino is studying entrepreneurship and is about to begin his senior year. With not much time remaining in his college career, he is already starting to think about the future.
“After I graduate, I’m hoping to go pro,” he said, “But if that doesn’t happen, I want to travel the states that I haven’t been to and then figure out what I want to do.”
When asked about what kind of job he would want other than becoming a professional soccer player, he answered with another ambitious career.
“I would want to own my own business. It would be a clothing store, sportswear,” he said, “Growing up with soccer your whole life, you hear a lot of people complaining about soccer cleats and stuff. For example, I cut my socks because I don’t like the way they feel.”
Neither becoming a professional soccer player nor being a successful business owner are simple goals, but Nino finds the inspiration to dream big thanks to those close to him, especially his father.
Nino’s grandparents had a farm and his father, Joe Nino, would help out his family while also getting an education and doing after school activities.
“As a young kid, he would have to wake up really early in the morning to work in the fields,” Nino recounted. “He then would have to ride a bike to school. He would do two or three hours of football practice and then come back to work in the fields.”
But this is not the only thing Nino admires about his father. As an adult, Joe Nino suffered from a heart attack but showed his resilience when he got better.
“Having a heart attack and knowing he could’ve not been here is pretty crazy to think about,” Nino said. “He’s my biggest supporter.”