Down But Not Out

Four years have passed since a stroke ended Chuck Dibilio’s football career. He has moved on—to a new sport and a positive attitude.

Princeton football star Chuck Dibilio is competing again after a stroke, albeit not on the gridiron.
Princeton football star Chuck Dibilio is competing again after a stroke, albeit not on the gridiron.
Matt Smith for the Express Times.

Four years have passed since a stroke ended Chuck Dibilio’s football career. For the 23-year-old Princeton University senior, the effects linger, but he has moved on—to a new sport and a positive attitude.

“I’m not perfect,” says Dibilio, who lives with the threat of another stroke. “But I’ve gotten to the point where I know I have no control over it, so why worry?’’

Dibilio was in a study group in January 2012 when his arm went numb and his speech began to slur. The cause of the stroke was never determined. It took Dibilio away from school for two semesters while he underwent nearly nine months of rehabilitation.

Dibilio starred as a running back at his hometown high school in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. As a freshman at Princeton in 2011, he was honored as Ivy League rookie of the year and seemed poised to become Princeton’s all-time leading rusher and possibly go on to a pro-football career.

CrossFit is Dibilio’s game now, with activities like competitive weight lifting and gymnastics. He also snowboards, plays basketball, is learning to surf and gets around campus on a skateboard.

Dibilio, who still sometimes fumbles to find words, has let go of his football dreams. But that hasn’t made it easier for his family.

“As time goes by, I’m not quite as scared,” says his mother, Bonnie. “The low point was when the doctor told him he couldn’t play football again…. It broke my heart.’’

Dibilio, 5-feet-11 and 208 pounds, says he’s in the best shape of his life. He will graduate in May with a degree in economics and a minor in computer science. At deadline, he had not determined what he will do after graduation.

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