LA Standard's Outstanding Student-Athlete: Rickenbacker played safety at St. John Bosco High School, and his grade-point average is above a 4.0.
By Jason Lewis
Dillon Rickenbacker played safety for St. John Bosco, which nationally is routinely ranked as a top-five high school football program. The program sends their best players to college football programs around the nation, and Rickenbacker has decided to continue his athletic and academic career at Yale University. While he has developed into a highly-rated football player, he is equally as strong academically.
Rickenbacker became a football fan at a very early age, and he began playing while in the second grade.
“I grew up watching football on TV with my dad, and my older brother played in high school as well,” he said. “So I was familiar with the sport, but playing it was brand new to me.”
Rickenbacker’s father Damon and older brother Devon both played football at Fairfax High School, and he was able to pick up the game as he played on a yearly basis. He really started to hit his stride in middle school. Being intelligent, which comes from both his father, who is a graduate of the University of California, Northridge and a USMC/Navy veteran, and his mother Evelyn, who after graduating from St. Bernard High School received her degree from UCLA and currently is the principal at Transfiguration Elementary School, has helped him on the football field.
“I’ve always been used to having to study and having to put in extra time to figure out things that are confusing to me,” Rickenbacker said. “Coming to Bosco as a freshman, I had no idea how complex learning a defense was and how defensive schemes can be. Another part of that learning curve was making the jump from playing middle school football to coming to St. John Bosco and learning how to play a college defense while in high school. Me being used to studying and putting in extra work into things that I’m not familiar with, it’s translated into playing football because I’ve taken time outside of practice to learn how to play.”
Rickenbacker likes playing safety because in St. John Bosco’s defense, they are the leaders on the field.
“In some defenses, the middle linebacker is probably the quarterback of the defense, but at Bosco, the safety is the quarterback of the defense,” he said. “We make all of the calls and all of the adjustments. It’s our job to not only know our positions, but to know every other position on the field. I like the leadership that’s placed on me.”
Rickenbacker has dedicated himself to St. John Bosco’s elite training program, which includes weight training, plyometrics, and speed and agility work that is performed four times a week. He has also trained with Ground Zero at Jackson Robinson Stadium.
Academically, Rickenbacker’s GPA has hovered between a 4.1 and 4.2 while he’s taken all AP and honors classes, and he’s been getting good grades since he was in elementary school. He has a system that helps him understand and retain a lot of information.
“I’m more of a visual learner, so I spend a lot of time reviewing Power Point slides that are given to me by my teachers,” he said. “If I’m really stuck on something, I’ll watch some videos to learn more about it. And I make a lot of notes in my notebook.”
Rickenbacker’s favorite subjects are in the STEM fields, such as environmental science and astronomy. He plans to major in computer science or engineering with a minor in business when he gets to college, and after his athletic career is complete he’d like to work for a tech company such as Google.
“STEM jobs are the jobs of the future, and that’s definitely a good way to have a nice successful job,” he said.
Rickenbacker’s parents have been incredibly influential in his life.
“Growing up since the first grade, my mother was my principal at my school,” he said. “I’ve always been around my mom whether it’s at school or at home. Seeing her as a mom and seeing her as a teacher in a leadership role, she’s been extremely influential to me. I’ll always refer to her as my best friend. She’s such a smart woman, her, along with my dad, help keep me focused.
“My dad set a standard for me. I can look at my dad, compared to other men, and I don’t want to let him down. I have to hold myself to the standard that he’s set because he’s worked hard for me to have the opportunities to do the things that I get to do. Seeing what he’s done helps keep me focused.”
Rickenbacker takes a lot of pride in being from Leimert Park, as he’s seen many people from this community become successful.
“Growing up in this community I’ve met a lot of people from similar backgrounds as me,” he said. “Seeing them succeed is very inspirational to me. They’re doing big things that I aspire to do. And members of Transfiguration Church call my mom to check up on me, and they congratulate me on things that I’m doing.”
Rickenbacker has a very bright future in front of him whether that be in athletics or in the STEM fields, and he is an asset to local communities.