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Max DeLorenzo emerging as a role player, leader

It was rumored that Max DeLorenzo was considering transferring at various points across his college career. Instead, the redshirt senior has established himself as a valuable utility football player.

In his fifth year at UConn, Max Delorenzo has embraced his role and has grown into a leader for the team.
In his fifth year at UConn, Max Delorenzo has embraced his role and has grown into a leader for the team.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When Max DeLorenzo committed to Randy Edsall's UConn Huskies in the summer of 2010, nobody could have ever predicted the ensuing changes in the program. Yet through four head coaches, three different uniforms, two stadium names and two different conferences, DeLorenzo still bleeds blue.

Edsall left for Maryland after leading the Huskies to a Big East co-championship and BCS bowl berth. Luckily for UConn, DeLorenzo stayed onboard following the arrival of Paul Pasqualoni. He redshirted his first year on campus, and by then his head coach was already under fire. DeLorenzo played sparingly as a redshirt freshman but did gain 91 yards on 23 carries in one game against Temple.

After that season, Big East Football collapsed. A few remaining schools joined up with a couple of promising mid-major programs and the American Athletic Conference was born. Longtime rivals like Syracuse and Pittsburgh would be replaced by the likes of Central Florida and SMU. National and internet columnists everywhere were starting to shovel dirt on UConn Football.

Despite watching the program take lumps that were outside of his control, DeLorenzo started to emerge as sophomore, rushing for 349 yards and gaining another 69 yards through the air. That season was mired in uncertainty, however, as Pasqualoni was fired after starting the 2013 season 0-4 with rough losses to Towson and Buffalo. The Huskies wouldn't get their first win of the season until November under interim head coach TJ Weist.

Going into the 2014 season as UConn's leading returning rusher, the former Berlin High standout was probably not thrilled to see his numbers and touches stay about the same that year. At the beginning of the season, it was Josh Marriner, but by the end of the season a couple of true freshmen, Ron Johnson and Arkeel Newsome, started to factor heavily into the backfield rotation.

For someone who showed promise as a freshman and took a step up as a sophomore, DeLorenzo may have been warranted if he felt like he deserved more playing time and decided to find a new team that would afford him that opportunity. Instead, he came to Bob Diaco before the season started with more resolve than ever.

"Max has approached the season with a focus and determination that his circumstances are going to change," Bob Diaco said in his press conference on Tuesday. "That he's going to help will this group to have our collective circumstances change. He's been that way since we got back together."

Diaco credits DeLorenzo with leading the charge for a running back unit consisting of four talented, yet unselfish, players.

"The running backs have become a unit that says, ‘theres a couple of jobs that need to be done on each play', and they don't care who does it," Diaco said. "And they mean it."

This was evident in the Villanova game, where DeLorenzo played all over the field on special teams, but also contributed in the form of a critical 11-yard reception that would have set up a UConn score if it was not for the interception to end the first half. UConn showed multiple sets with two running backs and used them in a variety of roles.

Though he didn't register a carry, DeLorenzo still has a lot of value to UConn as a blocker, special teams contributor and running back on third downs, where his pass-blocking and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield come in handy. He is also a sturdy between-the-tackles rusher who can help UConn pound the ball when they need to. He should get his first carries against Army on Saturday.

"Anything I can do to help get this program back and be on the winning track before I depart is the ultimate goal," DeLorenzo told the Hartford Courant. "So no matter if I'm playing, not playing, catching, blocking, running, that's what I'm going to do to help."