Dutchie Arroyo remembers the first time he stepped on a football field.
“I didn’t like it. I was a soft little boy..maybe seven or eight. I didn’t like football at all. I quit,” said Arroyo.
But he decided to give football another shot. This time, his attitude changed. Dramatically.
“I thought I could be pretty good at it.,” said Arroyo.
His inclination was accurate.
Through hard work and a strong supporting cast on and off the field, Arroyo, now 17, has become one of the top high school athletes in Rhode Island.
Arroyo, a 5’10, 165 pound star running back has been a key ingredient to the Central Falls Warriors success this season. Central Falls cruised through Division III with a near perfect record. The team’s sole blemish is the result of a forfeit for unknowingly using an ineligible player against Narragansett – a team they handily beat 41-6.
Arroyo, a two-sport standout who also excels in basketball, has had an outstanding season. He has averaged multiple touchdowns per game including a four TD performance in the last regular season game against North Providence. Arroyo accounted for two receiving touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and a passing TD in a 36-14 victory over the Cougars. With the win, the Warriors clinched the top seed in the Division III playoffs. He followed that performance with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 36-10 playoff win over Chariho on Sunday. The Warriors now will reunite with NP in the DIII semifinals Saturday (11/10) at 3:30 p.m. at Johnson High. The winner advances to the Super Bowl.
“Dutchie leads by his performance. He is an unbelievable athlete and a special kid,” said Central Falls Coach Jeff Lapierre. “He has tremendous speed, instinct and is very, very savvy out there. You can’t teach that. Dutchie uses all of his 165 pounds out there and uses it well.”
Kyle Rowley, a former Bishop Hendricken and Brown University quarterback who played professionally in the Arena Football League for more than a dozen years, recently worked with Arroyo.
“Dutchie demonstrates better hand-eye coordination than almost every pro and college player I’ve ever played or worked with ,” said Rowley. “His body control and awareness around the edges of the field is through the roof. He is taking multiple one handed catches while dragging or tapping his toes inbounds every workout. He makes the most difficult maneuvers look mundane. He’s a gifted athlete.”
Off the field hasn’t been as easy for Arroyo. He is the oldest of five children who live with a single mom in the inner-city. He said his biological father isn’t involved in his life.
But his mom has made sure she has surrounded Arroyo with a great supporting cast. At a young age, she enrolled him in the Big Brothers and got him involved in youth sports. All have provided Arroyo with positive role models and opportunities to excel and better himself.
“People find ways to give Dutchie opportunities because he is such a great kid,” said Lapierre.
“I remember the first time I met Dutchie at his house,” said Tyler Rowley, Kyle’s younger brother who served as Dutchie’s Big Brother in the program. “I was being interviewed as part of the Big Brothers program. Dutchie was standing in the kitchen with a football in his hand. He started playing catch with me in the house. I could tell right away how much he loved sports and just wanted the chance to play.”
Tyler, who like his older brother played football at Hendricken and Brown, often brought Arroyo to Brown Stadium where the two would spend hours tossing around the football. They also played a lot of basketball in the Pizzitola Sports Center.
“He was quick and had good instincts,” said Tyler. “All he had to do was keep playing and stay out of trouble and you knew he would be good. He just needed the opportunity. He took advantage of every opportunity people gave him. That’s what makes you good…keep playing and working.”
“When you explain something to him or show him something on film, He not only can immediately process it, he can do it right away..and do it well.”
Perhaps Arroyo’s greatest supporter is his former Mt. Hope Cowboys football coach, Marc Bayha. Arroyo has developed a unique, special bond with Bayha, a former All-State basketball player (Toll Gate) who later played at Ryder and Stonehill. Bayha, who has coached in the Cowboys organization for 15 years, first met Arroyo when he was 10.
“I could see his mom was struggling. She was asking for help. She just had Dutchie’s little sister and couldn’t give Dutchie a ride to practices. Without a ride, he couldn’t play. He demonstrated that he wanted to play so bad…so I offered to pick up him and take him to practices.”
From there the bond developed and strengthened.
“I’d take Dutchie to practices, to lunch, to watch older kids like CJ (Waite) play at La Salle after our practices were done,” said Bayha. “His mom needed help and Dutchie was such a great kid with a great personality. At the Cowboys, we don’t just coach football, we coach the whole kid.”
“Marc’s like a dad to me…the dad I never had,” said Arroyo. “Marc started to get into picture when I was 10. He offered rides. During weekend games he let me stay over. I got into his hands and he has never left. He has taught me to be a man, a better person and do right…even after I leave high school school.”
“I give a lot of credit to his mom. She made sure she put positive people in his life,” said Bayha.
“He’s like a sponge,” Bayha continued. “When you explain something to him or show him something on film. He not only can immediately process it, he can do it right away..and do it well,. He can process faster than anyone else” said Bayha. “He accepts my advice on the field and in the classroom. He is a good kid, very respectful. For a kid like that to call me a dad is an an honor. It shows the impact he has allowed me to have on him. It means a lot.”
The Dean of Students at the Tide School, Bayha coaches football, basketball, refs, and recently became the father to a new baby girl. Still, he finds time to spend with Arroyo. He made sure he was on the sidelines at the Chariho game.
“At the half I I gave him a hard time about missing a block,” said Bayha. “He had a great first half – two touchdowns and two interceptions. But I wanted to see him block.”
A man standing next to Bayha on the sidelines questioned the conversation Bayha had with Arroyo.
“I had been making small talk with this guy. He said, “Who are you to talk to him like that? Are you his dad?'”
Bayha thought for a moment and then answered.
“I’m a little bit of everything to him,” said Bayha.
“I just want him to be the best he can be.” said Bayha.
For Arroyo, the immediate goal is finish his high school career as a Super Bowl champion. Then the All-Division point guard will head the Warriors basketball court. Bayha has set much bigger goals for Arroyo.
“The goal is to use football to get into college,” said Bayha. “Any division. It doesn’t matter. He needs a college degree. That’s what is important.”