Dom DeLuca & Malick Meiga Leading Penn State Football As New Captains
Penn State football is looking to the future.
The Nittany Lions named Dom DeLuca and Malick Meiga to the list of the team’s six captains on August 19. Now, with just a day before Penn State opens its season against West Virginia at Beaver Stadium, DeLuca and Meiga have become two of the program’s most prominent faces.
DeLuca and Meiga are both stepping into their first years as captains, after long snapper Chris Stoll and linebacker Jonathan Sutherland, who represented special teams in the captains’ group last year, departed Penn State for the NFL.
DeLuca and Meiga are far from newcomers to the special teams group. Last season, Meiga was the team’s John Bruno Memorial Award recipient, which is given annually to the group’s top player on special teams. Against Minnesota in last year’s White Out, DeLuca blocked the Nittany Lions’ first punt since Journey Brown’s block against Buffalo in 2019.
Both players say their work ethic earned the respect of teammates and coaches, and now they have the title to justify their dedication. DeLuca says that it’s made him a more vocal leader around his teammates. Meiga feels that it hasn’t changed how he acts.
“For me, it’s different. English is not my first language,” Meiga, a native of Quebec, said. “So I’m not that vocal. I just work. Every day, if you just show up and do your work, and I feel like people normally follow that.”
Meiga is more than just a special teams standout. He feels that he can jockey for an open starting spot at the wide receiver position. In the past two seasons, Meiga has made just six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, but he feels that he’s ready for more reps this season.
Meiga’s counterpart, DeLuca, will also compete for reps outside of special teams this year. DeLuca, who earned a scholarship at the end of the 2022 season after starting at Penn State as a run-on, made 29 tackles through all of last season.
While they don’t always spend time working with the same position groups on the field in practice, Meiga says that he and DeLuca have a strong connection together on special teams. DeLuca’s the loud voice in the locker room, while Meiga’s lead-by-example mindset completes their yin and yang relationship.
“That’s my guy,” Meiga said. “He’s a little Italian kid… and that’s my dog. I just love the kid. We hang out a lot outside of the football field.”
DeLuca’s the player that’s gotten the most attention of any of Penn State’s captains. The former run-on grew up a Penn State fan and used to dream of playing on Saturdays in Beaver Stadium. Now, he says, the kids in his hometown are wearing his own jerseys.
DeLuca now wears No. 0 on his jersey, a number given to a player on the Nittany Lions who is a “tough, disciplined, dependable, physical leader.” First given to Sutherland in 2020, the jersey is one of Penn State’s newest traditions. Now, it’s DeLuca’s job to carry the torch.
“I always knew it was a possibility,” DeLuca said about his captaincy. “If I worked hard enough, I could be just like everyone else on the team.”
DeLuca quickly became a fan and player-favorite on the team. From a run-on player quietly getting his reps in at special teams and linebacker to a team captain on scholarship in less than a year, it seems like DeLuca could be the most popular player at the Nittany Lions’ camp.
“Every single day in the meeting rooms, every single day in winter workouts, every single day in a weight room or practice it’s like Super Bowl for him,” James Franklin said about DeLuca. “I think he’s a guy that has really universally earned everybody’s respect throughout the program — coaches and players alike.”
With the season looming, DeLuca and Meiga have taken it upon themselves to bring the younger team members up to speed with the program. Meiga stays around after practice and plays catch with some of the younger guys, while DeLuca tries to show them how to rise to the top at Penn State.
Neither player seems to lose sight of the importance of their position. They’ve been named leaders on the team, and now they’ll have to show the program why.
“It feels pretty good. I feel like it’s a huge honor,” Meiga said. “My teammates and my coaches chose me to be a leader on the team and lead everybody on the team. That’s a huge honor.”
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