“My family and I are super close, and we’re a Christian family,” Dylan said. “We pray on everything we do, and not every move has been based on what I want to do. It has been stressful; it has been fun. Moving around and meeting different people can be hard, but that’s part of life. Life isn’t going to be easy.”
It has been a fast, somewhat chaotic rise for Raiola. Playing tight end and defensive end through middle school, he didn’t start as a freshman in Burleson, Texas. But with Jon Kitna, Burleson’s coach and a former NFL quarterback, developing Raiola as a quarterback, he landed his first Power 5 scholarship offer from Georgia that school year. As a sophomore, he threw for 3,241 yards and 42 touchdowns.
“If I didn’t have those two years with (Kitna), I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Raiola said.
When Raiola moved to Arizona before his junior season, he enrolled at Chandler High, just after being named the country’s top recruit for his class. But Raiola was one of dozens of players to transfer from Chandler because of what Dominic Raiola characterized as cultural issues. Because of Arizona high school transfer rules, Dylan would have had to sit out the first five games of the season had he stayed there.
Because Raiola was committed to Georgia, the family thought it best to move to the state. At Buford, Raiola will be learning his third offensive playbook in three years, but he sees that a good thing.
“It’s a huge advantage going into college,” Raiola said. “You pick up on different offensive systems based on what you like and what fits your strengths, and there are ins-and-outs to every scheme and system. So that’s big for my overall knowledge of the game. I’ve learned spread, pro-style, some West Coast wrinkles. I’m a film junky and I love football, so for me, learning a new offense is not a challenge.”
Buford traditionally has been a running team, although coach Bryant Appling notes the Wolves have thrown significantly more during the past few seasons. With 5-star running back Justice Haynes, the Wolves rushed 276 times and threw 118 passes last season. Haynes is at Alabama, so Raiola expects the passing game to play a more prominent role.
“Some things I can’t share about what we’re doing scheme-wise, but I think you’ll see the ball in the air more this season,” Raiola said.
“We haven’t thrown 50 times a game, but we will if that’s what the matchup dictates,” Appling said. “It’s all about the team, and Dylan is all about the team. He has been great since he’s been here because he understands it’s not about one player, and that’s why he fits in so great in this culture.”
Raiola said he bonded with his Buford teammates on a three-day, no-cellphone retreat and can sense big things are ahead.
“I love it here,” he said. “I think what we have here is special, and we should be very exciting to watch.”
In January, he’ll enter a crowded quarterback group in Athens, which will include Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton. Georgia coach Kirby Smart traditionally has favored experience over talent at the position.
“I think so,” Raiola said when asked if he’d be willing to sit a season. “I don’t want anything promised to me, or given. I have to earn it. I try not to look at what others did before me because God puts everyone on a different journey.”
For now, it’s Buford, and Raiola wants to make the most of it.
“My freshman year, the seniors told me this will all be over soon, and I never believed them,” he said. “With COVID, freshman year seemed like it took forever. But these past three years have been great, so to finish off on a high note with a state championship would mean a lot.”