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Resiliency and dedication: Central Alberta Buccaneers Dario Nazarit returns to the field

Buccaneers player Dario Nazarit returns a punt during a regular-season game against the Edmonton Elite of the Alberta Football League at Great Chief Park on Saturday. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

It’s been a long road back to the gridiron Central Alberta Buccaneers defensive back and receiver Dario Nazarit.

On Saturday night he played his first football game after recovering from a left Achilles injury he sustained during the Alberta Football League (AFL) championship game last August.

He returned to the field fully healthy to take on the Edmonton Elite, which is the same team the Buccaneers played when he got injured.

Despite the Buccaneers losing to the Elite 32-7 in their first home game of the season, Nazarit looked back to full form grabbing two out of the three Buccaneer interceptions of the game.

“Honestly for me it’s been more of the mental game of whether I can get back to playing but being out there and getting that first interception I was like ‘ok I can actually run’ and I felt pretty good,” Nazarit told the Advocate.

Nazarit has lived in Red Deer for the past 20 years and is in his third year with the Central Alberta Buccaneers. In the last 10 months of recovery and rehabilitation for his injury, he said he couldn’t wait to get back to playing football.

“That’s all I dreamt of for a while. For me to get back to feeling normal I know I needed to play a football game again. And honestly, my performance to myself impressed me because it’s more of the things in the mind like am I going to be good or am I not going to be good,” he added.

Nazarit has played on defence and offence his entire football career and that did not change on Saturday. Despite just returning from an injury, Nazarit played the whole game rarely ever taking a series off.

“I play soccer, basketball, and football all year round since I was a kid until I tore my Achilles last year. That’s what I’ve always done so going both ways for me is all about the mental state it doesn’t bother me as long as I know I can continue to push my body,” he explained.

For the first two months, he said he was in a hard cast not being able to move much which was a tough time for Nazarit. It took some time for him to come to the realization that he was going to be ok and feel any progress. Once he transferred into the walking boot was when he felt progress and became optimistic about his recovery. He then began rehabilitation for a month and a half and has been doing it on his own ever since. He began physiotherapy in February, which has been one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do in any sport.

“It’s been helping out a lot. Some days it’s tough, some days it’s not,” he added. “I’ve played so many sports that not everything I’ve done has bothered me until I had to do 300 calf raises in one session.”

He’s been playing football since Grade 9 and what keeps him coming back season after season is the brotherhood with his teammates and love of the game.

“Love the environment just zoning out there knowing you have to rely on the guy next to you. And as long as he does his job, you do your job just the connection that goes between it that’s what I love about it,” he said.

Despite the score, it was a defensive showdown for most of the game at Great Chief Park in Red Deer.

In the second quarter, the Elite jumped out to a 7-0 lead after a long offensive drive and would be the only score of the first half.

In the third quarter, after the Buccaneers and quarterback Brett Bylsma put their first long drive of the game they turned the ball over. Edmonton would get two points after kicking the ball through the back of the endzone and later would get a field goal to head into the fourth quarter leading 11-0.

An early touchdown by the Elite was just the first of many by Edmonton in the game’s final frame. However, the Buccaneers still had some fight in them as they got a late score on a nice pass by Bylsma.

With the loss, the Buccaneers are now 0-4 to start the season but will play the next two games at home against the Peace Country Cowboys on July 16 and the Cold Lake Fighter Jets on July 23.

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