At a smaller Division I school like Marist College, it’s not difficult to put a name to the face of the many athletes competing for the school. After walking around campus for four years with their bright red backpacks and constant Marist Athletics apparel, these athletes have established themselves as just that — athletes. As they round the corner to graduation, the question remains: who are they outside of their sport?
The following story is a part of Center Field’s 19 for ‘19: Stories of the Senior Class series.
It’s only on those rare mornings when you have to wake up abnormally early that you notice them. At 6:00 a.m. you just might make them out through the thick fog over the Hudson River. Or maybe you hear them marching by your dorm room window at the crack of dawn. They are Marist’s earliest risers, and senior Dan Arrato is one of them.
A member of the Marist Men’s Crew team as well as a Cadet in the Army ROTC program, Dan has spent his fair share of early mornings at practice on the river or doing physical training, preparing for a career in the U.S. Army.
“I’ll row five out of six days a week, which is great because the coaches allow me to miss a day of practice, so I’ll come in after morning PT for that one day and I’ll make up the rowing practice. So that evens it out to the six days per week of practice on the rowing team while I’m meeting the requirements for ROTC,” he said. “Check all the boxes.”
Checking all the boxes is what Dan has made a habit of doing throughout his Marist career, even ensuring he receives his academic assignments early so he can complete them in his free time.
Free time… It seems like it should be such a foreign concept to someone so occupied by two rigorous, demanding programs.
But don’t tell that to the guy who also finds a way to fix up old lawnmowers and resell them, or who is saving up for a Mustang project after graduation. “I love anything with an engine on it, so it’s all about working on trucks and cars and anything with a motor,” he said. Anything that makes a lot of noise has his name all over it.
Dan is, very simply, different from most people you might meet, especially in Poughkeepsie. He’s from Connecticut, but you would probably think he’s from the South. He’s a college student, but with the work ethic of a few of them combined. And he is certainly different compared to the typical rower.
While most rowers are tall and thin, Dan is just 5-foot 10-inches and built like an infantry man. His stature has earned him the title “the fridge” amongst his colleagues. Physically, he doesn’t fit in when you glance out to the Hudson and watch the rowing shell glide by. This has not stopped him from rowing one of the most technical seats in a crew.
“You always put your lightest guy up in the bow seat because it is kind of a technical seat to sit in, and Dan’s like the heaviest guy in the boat. But he sits bow seat,” said Men’s Rowing Assistant Coach Campbell Woods. To put this into perspective, it is common knowledge in the rowing universe that the heaviest rowers should usually sit in the middle of the boat. The bow seat is the “1” seat, at the very front of the boat, making Dan’s placement unconventional to say the least.
Even more unconventional is the attitude Dan brings to a race, a persona that birthed a fitting nickname. “We’re always sort of messing around at the start-line which is, once again, very atypical for a rowing team,” Dan said.
“I have been known to call out a couple ‘yee-haws’ during the middle of a race.” Complete with a cowboy hat to boot, he has been called “Cowboy Dan” since early on in his freshman year here, a nickname he seems to wear proudly.
Perhaps the most incredible feat in Dan’s Marist career is the health and physical shape he has maintained despite the grueling training for both crew and ROTC. Woods echoed his admiration for Arrato’s durability. “The ability to train and train and train, do all the ROTC stuff on top of this and never have injuries and consistently be improving all the time – it’s hard to do but it’s also just a physical durability which is cool,” he said. “Not everybody has it.”
He’s absolutely right; not everybody is able to do what Dan Arrato does. In fact, very few are.
Even in setting up the interview to write this story, he nearly exhausted me simply by divulging his schedule for the early morning. Dan told me he could meet me at 8:15 a.m., right after practice and before his ROTC lab class at 9:00 a.m. Of course, this was all before the majority of the campus was even awake.
You might recognize a massive, blue pickup truck rolling through the Marist campus. That is Cowboy Dan’s distinctive vehicle. After our interview in the boathouse was finished, Dan offered me a ride back to the main campus. That’s the kind of guy he is. As I struggled to hoist myself into the cabin of the truck, I noticed his infamous cowboy hat resting on the passenger seat. It was at this moment that all the different pieces of his personality and character came together for me. He’s an athlete in one of the most graceful sports, yet he’s training for an Army career. He’s from Connecticut, yet he is practically a real life cowboy. And he’s a model individual without sacrificing an outgoing soul.
After graduation, Dan is taking the obvious next step for his career — becoming an Army Combat Engineer…in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He’ll still be amongst a populated city in Fairbanks, though it is a city close enough to the Arctic Circle that day tours are available.
“It’ll be a little bit different than my hometown in Connecticut. I like snowmobiling though!” Of course he does. They make noise and have a motor.
Dan is grateful to his parents and both of his “teams” in rowing and ROTC for motivating him and helping him achieve two of his main passions at a high level. He claimed proudly that everything he has done “has definitely made me the insane individual I like to think I’ve become.”
A man of many talents and passions, and without question a man who will approach all his future endeavors with an enthusiastic, “Yeehaw!”
Edited by the Center Field Editorial Team.
Header image by Kristin Flanigan.