Zone Read: The Dylan Raiola Experience

Arizona Sports News online

“Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Dylan Raiola.”

In some parts, most notably the entire state of Nebraska, the Pinnacle High junior needs no introduction (we’ll get to that later).

The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, widely considered the top quarterback recruit in the Class of 2024, pulls up a chair across from me in the Pioneers’ football meeting room. 

While he looks every bit the physical teenage quarterback lab freak I expected, there’s far more to Raiola than a bunch of recruiting stars next his name, NFL genes, and a Howitzer of a right arm.

During our near 30-minute chat, I’m struck by his humility, family-based morals, and faith-first approach to life, both on, and off the field. 

A Fresh Start (Again)

Sure, his three-year prep football story, now at its third stop, certainly has a lot of unpacking, but it’s not quite the quick-to-judge narrative many Twitter bullies have scripted in their social media hot takes after Raiola opted to transfer from Chandler to Pinnacle last month.

“We parted mutually,” he said to the “Zone Read” without hesitation when asked why the move to the north Valley. “That’s kind of the way we wanted to. I have a lot of respect for Coach [Rick] Garretson and what he’s done at Chandler. Really, it was just the best move for my family, my [younger] brother, and myself for the stage of life that we’re in right now…we just felt it was right, and we needed to make a move. So, here we are.”

While a 35-mile relocation may seem odd, considering Chandler’s neighboring power programs, the Raiola’s are familiar with the north Valley as Dylan attended Scottsdale Christian Academy until his freshman year.

The family explored schools in southern California but opted to remain in the Valley, most notably, for the better quality of life the greater Phoenix area offers, as well as the large group of family which reside in Arizona.

“We prayed about it for three to four weeks, maybe five,” Raiola said. “We just elected to stay here and I’m glad we’re here.”

Social Distortion

Raiola swiftly moves past the hate chatter as quickly as he dissects a blitz scheme.

“I don’t really give those people the time of day, honestly,”  he explained with a quick shoulder shrug. “I know why we’ve moved the last three high schools. There’s a lot of reasons why we’ve moved around, and a lot of people don’t know that. They just see us bouncing around but everyone in my circle knows, we’re not just looking for the next out.”

His circle also helps him stay grounded in the often unforgiving, relentless world of social media chatter, particularly towards a player of Raiola’s status, and his near 36,000 followers between Twitter and Instagram.

“The simple saying is, ‘Keep the outside noise outside,'” he noted. “I don’t run my social media accounts. My parents and my sister run my Instagram and my Twitter. I hardly check that stuff. It’s really just discipline. What everyone says doesn’t really matter to what we’re doing at Pinnacle, and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

He said he doesn’t even have the popular social media apps on his phone, and credits his family for keeping him on track from the possible distractions.

“My parents are just doing what’s best for me…and my period of life right now.”

Room for One

His right now is Pinnacle, sitting in a quarterback room with sophomore incumbent Wyatt Horton, fresh off a 3,000-yard, 34-touchdown campaign in helping lead PHS to their first State Championship Game appearance in program history back in December. 

As I noted in a previous column, the situation is far from ideal, but the two, according to many inside the program, have fostered a fast, almost competitive friendship as they approach spring ball.

“I have a lot of respect for Wyatt,” Raiola said. “I reached out to him when I first enrolled and just told him that I really valued his game, and what he did last year for Pinnacle. He’s a really good player. We’re just going to compete in a healthy way, and may the best man win. But, at the same time, it’s really just building a relationship with him, getting each other better.”

Learning from the Pros

Raiola credits much of his development and growth at the position to a former NFL quarterback who he played for in his two seasons at Burleson High School, just an hour or so southwest of Dallas.

“I got to learn how to play quarterback from Jon Kitna,” he explained. “I really believe that changed my whole life. He gave me an opportunity, just from his development…we played some really good teams. The competition out there. I mean, it’s Texas high school football. You can’t find that anywhere else. It was special to play in that kind of environment.”

While he credits Kitna for much of his development, he also had the rare opportunity to shadow and train with arguably the best present day quarterback in the NFL.

“I really like Patrick Mahomes,” he said. “I try to model my game after him. I met him, trained with him, and threw with him last summer in Texas. His advice was don’t take coaching points and apply them all at once. Just think about one thing. Focus on that one thing. Master that one thing, and then move onto the next.”

— Dylan Raiola (@RaiolaDylan) July 1, 2022

Raiola admitted he was star struck but the two quickly bonded over their shared position on the field, as well as their love for baseball. Mahomes pitched and played outfield for a year at Texas Tech. Raiola catches, pitches, and plays third base on the club baseball circuit. His fastball has been clocked at 89 miles per hour.

He also took the time to lean into the 2-time Super Bowl Champion for advice on the question everyone has been asking.

“I talked to him about his recruiting process, how he handled it,” Raiola explained. “He just said he was going to bet on himself and go to Texas Tech. He’s where he’s at now, and that says a lot about his drive. [That] dude is insane. It was really cool.”

People Watching

“It’s a blessing to be recruited by guys like Lincoln Riley, Kirby Smart,” Raiola explained. “Guys that you dream of talking to and then actually have the opportunity for them to come at you as hard as they do, recruit you to their program that they’ve built for a long time. It’s a very fortunate situation to be in to be recruited by Power Five programs.”

One of those programs recruiting him heavily is Nebraska, where Dylan’s father, Dominic Raiola, was a consensus All-American center, and Remington Award recipient in 2000 before embarking on his 14-year NFL career, all with the Detroit Lions. Dylan recently attended a Husker basketball game in Lincoln, making quite an impression on his dad’s alma mater.

Spencer Rattler, another once-prized Pinnacle quarterback recruit, often joked how Oklahoma fans would frequently recognize him walking through the Oklahoma City airport on recruiting visits.

Raiola received the same star treatment last weekend in Omaha.

“I actually got to the gate and my brother told me there were people videoing me, taking pictures, and things like that,” he said with a chuckle. “Then we were boarding the plane, and I had my head down, just minding my own business, and there was like 10 people videoing me. I mean, that’s pretty cool. It’s awesome. Their fans just know their stuff.”

Trusting the Process

After de-committing from Ohio State last December, Raiola, and his family, are committed to taking their time before selecting a college.

“I have no timetable,” he said. “You really just want to make sure that you do your research. Really, I’m kind of open to everybody. A lot of people say that it’s a four-team race, but really I’m open to every school that reaches out.”

While schools like Georgia, USC, Oregon, and Nebraska have been linked as possible destinations, Raiola said he has also gotten recent interest from Miami, Colorado, Texas, and Michigan among others.

One play which could sway Raiola’s decision is where fellow Pinnacle two-sport star, and close friend, Duce Robinson commits. The five-star, top-rated 2023 tight end in the nation has yet to announce, but both Georgia and USC are strong candidates to land the services of the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder.  

“That’s definitely something we talked about before,” Raiola explained. “I just came up naturally. I was kind of like a joke here and there. We just started laughing about it. We do want to play together, that’s for sure. That would be pretty special. But for [both of us], it’s wherever we want to go, and whatever fits best.”

In some ways, despite just a one-year age difference, Robinson has served as a role model for Raiola.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot from him,” Raiola noted. “How he carries himself. How he works. We kind of bounce ideas off of each other, see if they stick. I do learn a lot from watching Duce. How he works. How he plays. Just his type of game style.”

Youth Movement

Raiola won’t have the luxury of throwing to Pinnacle’s 2022 top targets in Robinson, Myles Libman (Stanford), and tight end Coleson Arends (ASU) but the ‘Neers have a surplus of young talent ready to step into bigger roles this fall.

“I think the guys will step up to the challenge,” Raiola said. “I love the challenge of working with young guys, and just molding them into being great receivers and dominating in high school, and hopefully at the next level, as well.”

What’s Next

Perfecting his craft.

Despite being the most coveted junior prep quarterback in the country, Raiola, who is set to visit USC this weekend, says this off-season will be spent not only acclimating to new coaches and teammates, but improving his base, footwork, and every other nuance to elevate his game even higher this fall.

Team first.

Hard working.



Welcome to The Dylan Raiola Experience.