Nate Shron | Staff PhotographerFootball
For Syracuse’s Diabate and Reddish, Pinstripe Bowl represents homecoming
NEW YORK – For four years, Siriki Diabate took the 4 train right past Yankee Stadium and down to 125th Street, where he’d hop on the 6 to get to Herbert H. Lehman High School.
Since then, the stadium has been a part of his life. Now it’ll be where he plays one of his most meaningful games.
When Diabate steps onto the Yankee Stadium field Saturday to play West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl, he said he’ll accomplish a dream come true. The Orange linebacker emigrated from the Ivory Coast to the Bronx in 2003, and said he learned quickly that living in the Bronx meant being a Yankee fan. Now he’ll play on the field and dress in the locker room the Yankees call home.
“I’m a fan of every sport so I watched baseball and I actually learned pretty fast that being around here,” Diabate said, “you’ve got to like the Yankees a lot.”
In his first season starting as a middle linebacker, Diabate is tied for second on the team in total tackles with 67. He came to Syracuse after playing at Nassau Community College for two seasons, where he had 92 tackles as a sophomore.
Now he’s going back home for his final collegiate game.
Diabate said he didn’t know Syracuse was playing in the Pinstripe Bowl until his phone started receiving tons of text messages from family and friends, many from the Bronx. That’s when he figured out the Orange was going to be playing in his home borough.
He said he tried to get as many tickets for them as possible. Between the family and friends for which he got tickets, and the ones who bought tickets on their own, Diabate said he’ll have about 50 people in the Yankee Stadium stands Saturday to watch him play.
“It definitely added a little more excitement,” Diabate said. “Just a little more focus into the game just being able to represent the crowd, represent my whole family, everybody that’s going to be here and just make sure they see me play on a good stage.”
It’s a stage he’s wanted to play on for years, but especially for the last two. Diabate was in the stands for the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl when the Orange beat Kansas State 36-34.
He had already committed to Doug Marrone and Syracuse, but watching the Pinstripe Bowl reinforced his decision. Diabate said he wanted to be on the field for every play.
Now he’ll get that chance, and he’s been letting his teammates know how much he’s looking forward to getting on the field.
“He’s very excited. He says everyday he’s very excited,” strong safety Shamarko Thomas said. “It comes from our last time in the Pinstripe Bowl, he was here in the stands because he was getting recruited here and he’s ready and excited to play, and anxious to play on the field.”
Also watching from the stands that day was cornerback Brandon Reddish. The sophomore hadn’t committed to the Orange yet, but the game quickly changed that.
“I was actually here when they were warming up. I liked it a lot, I was like ‘Oh yeah, I want to come here now,’” Reddish said. “…The win sealed the deal.”
Reddish, a Brooklyn native, also said he’s excited to be playing back in New York City.
Playing on the Yankee Stadium field, though, won’t be a new experience. Reddish was on the Fort Hamilton High School football team that beat Lincoln High School in the 2010 New York Public Schools Athletic League football championship.
So he said playing back on that field on Saturday will bring back memories from the championship game. Like Diabate, Reddish said he will also have a lot of family and friends at the stadium.
For both players, it’s a chance to play back at home for one more game.
“It’s going to be fun. A lot of people are going to be there,” Reddish said. “I have a lot of family and friends coming to support.”
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