A lot of really cool stories have passed through the Carrier Dome over the years for the Syracuse Orange football program. However, former linebacker and captain Siriki Diabate has one of the best ones. I’ll direct you to Daily Orange alum Jesse Dougherty’s 2014 feature for the most comprehensive account of how he escaped the war-torn Ivory Coast to become an FBS football player. But the story doesn’t end at Syracuse for him, at least not yet.
After serving as a graduate assistant for the Orange from 2013-2014, Diabate now heads into his second season on the Colgate Raiders staff, where he serves as secondary coach. As you’re well aware, the Raiders head to Syracuse on Sept. 2 for both teams’ season opener.
TNIAAM caught up with Diabate over the phone on Monday, to chat about his career, next week’s game and more.
Q: How would you describe your time at Colgate so far?
My time here has been great. The staff is great, head coach (Dan Hunt) is a good guy. A family guy. He really cares about the staff. He’s been here for a long time and they know how to win here. It’s great to be working with those guys on staff. There’s a lot of experience on staff, and that helps me as I grow in this profession. It’s just a pleasure to be a part of it all.
Q: What are your long-term coaching goals?
Long-term, I would love to become a head coach... At either Syracuse or Colgate, but really, anywhere would be a blessing. Short-term, I’m looking to improve as a coach, become more organized, become a great recruiter, develop knowledge of the game. Around the country, coordinators are getting younger and younger. I want to grow and develop enough to be a coordinator that’ll become a head coach some day.
Q: What has been your most rewarding coaching moment at SU or Colgate?
Interesting question. I haven’t sat back and thought to pinpoint a moment just yet. It’s been a great run so far and I enjoy it every day. From my SU days, being able to help out guys like Marqez Hodge or Zaire Franklin; to help those guys develop and understand what it’s like to be a player and student athlete. To see them grow and have success now is exciting.
At Colgate, being with these guys at Colgate like (sophomore defensive back) Tyler Castillo and other young guys, helping develop the room. Last year, get to to the (FCS) quarterfinals was really rewarding.
It’s interesting, because I have such a close relationship with both teams. We want to go in there and do our best, but at the same time, it’s going to be emotional going up against Syracuse.
Q: Do you keep tabs on what's happening at Syracuse?
I’ve been following closely since last season, with the last staff being let go. Followed that closely and with the new hiring, to try to figure out what’s happening there. I’m close with some of the players, talking to them over the spring and summer – just not even football, the personal part of it. I have a good relationships with the players, so it’s great to catch up.
Q: Thoughts on Dino Babers's direction for the program?
He seems like an interesting guy. I haven’t met him yet. Don’t know much about him, but I’ve read and listened to a few interviews. He has a track record of being successful. Coaches before him were successful also, so it’s an interesting time.
I have a good relationship with the previous guys, so it gets emotional. But as an alum, you just want what’s best for the program first and foremost.
Q: If you weren't coaching right now, what would you be doing?
I’ve always been interested in finance or banking. They’re some areas I liked — I got my undergraduate degree in economics. Due to my immigration circumstances, I never got to enjoy those opportunities with internships and that market, I guess you could say. I just knew I was really interested in it.
After my time at Syracuse, I couldn’t get a job. I fell into coaching at Syracuse as a graduate assistant. I haven’t known anything other than coaching. Now, I couldn’t imagine anything else.
Q: What is the outlook for Colgate's defense this season?
I love the guys we coach here. They have the right mindset, attitude and they give the right effort. That’s all you can ask for. Players that go the extra mile to get better. A lot of guys want to get better. Syracuse is an opportunity in two weeks — it’s an exciting, good environment that needs focus.
Q: Who are some Colgate players that Syracuse fans should be aware of going into the season opener?
We like to call ourselves the dogs, everyone on the defense – and offensive side – of the ball are ready to roll. No moment too big or too small. Rather than one person sticking out, we’ll be prepared for the opportunity, make it a fun contest.
Q: What was your favorite memory at SU?
A lot of good moments. When we beat Louisville (in 2012) was a fun one. Personally for me, I’ll be a little selfish, playing in Yankee Stadium -- I grew up a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Getting the victory we did there against West Virginia was a fun moment in my life. The previous year when we beat West Virginia in the Dome was another great moment.
The snow had an effect on both teams, they both played with chips on their shoulders. But it was fun to get the win there.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m looking forward to the game. I haven’t been to the Dome since I left. It’ll be fun to go back there with our team. Ready to come out to the Dome and leave with a victory.
We really appreciate Siriki taking the time to chat with us about the game and his experiences. While we wish him luck — we don’t want him to have TOO much luck next Friday. Maybe just enough that we’ll eventually see him back on the Syracuse sidelines wearing Orange yet again.