Bumps and bruises were already piling up on Dillon Haley’s young body. Years of football had provided their wear and tear, but Haley wasn’t going to give up on his love for the game easy. Ultimately, it was one final hit – a shot to the knee in the midst of a battle – that pushed him across the edge.
Haley has decided to step away from football at Maryville College, ending his long career that started out with him becoming a youth all-star and growing into an all-region performer for the Pioneers. He also was one of the lucky few who could call themselves a college football player as well, though he realized after the season it was his time to put up the pads and hang up the cleats for the final time.
“Game 7 last year against NC Wesleyan, it was late in the game and I was blocking down on the tackle. Our center came through, but he tripped and fell and his helmet went right in the side of my knee,” recalled Haley about the career-changing play. “Thankfully, I didn’t have to have surgery, but it messed up some ligaments. The trainer said if I wasn’t wearing a brace, I would have blown my whole knee out. After that, it was hard to work out like I was doing before. At that time, I kind of knew it was about that time – my body was catching up to me. But I finished the season up, worked every day with the strength and conditioning coach and didn’t walk away as soon as I got hurt.
“I finished out the season and then I took a few weeks to think about the decision. Ultimately, I talked to God about the decision and it just felt like the right thing to do.”
It wasn’t an easy choice for Haley, who has been living and breathing the game since he was a youngster. He can still hold his head high though, knowing he pushed his body to the limit and maximized every chance he had to play football and went out like a warrior.
“It’s been a lot of fun. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but it showed me what kind of character coach (Matt) Turner built in me. It’s been a fun experience and I’m blessed to say I was a part of it,” said Haley.
As passionate as the big man is about the game, it’s no wonder that he’s not taken long to step onto the other side of the sideline. Haley has already been seen at Pioneer practices this summer, working as a volunteer coach for his alma mater. The coaching bug bit him hard and Haley is soaking up every second he gets to aid the Pioneers.
“I’ve only been here for about a week, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m getting to know the freshmen – I’ve primarily been with the JV -- and it’s been fun. I’m finding a really quick passion for helping them out and trying to grow them into the players I strove to be when I was their age,” said Haley.
Haley is also rekindling bonds built back in 2019 when he was a senior on Turner’s first team. Back then, guys like Braylon Grayson, Dayton Jernigan and others were wide-eyed freshmen finding their way with the Pioneers. Now they’re season vets carrying on the same traditions Haley helped establish.
“When we were here, we wanted to implement holding each other accountable with what they’re doing and when they’re supposed to be doing it. I think coach Turner is doing the same thing with theses seniors – you can hear some of the leaders like Grayson and Dayton stepping up and keeping everybody in line,” said Haley. “It’s good to see the guys who were freshmen when I was a senior grow and develop as players. It’s fun.”
Haley will head back to Maryville this fall, where he’ll be working to complete his degree. After that, don’t be surprised if he finds his way back to the gridiron. It’s already calling his name and Haley is ready to answer the call.
This is the fifth in our series of Security Federal College Spotlights coming this summer. If there is an athlete you’d like to see featured, please email us at email@example.com.
Brooks Helton, baseball at Trevecca: https://www.wcsportsauthority.com/post/security-federal-college-spotlight-brooks-helton
Will Cantrell, baseball at Bryan College: https://www.wcsportsauthority.com/post/security-federal-college-spotlight-will-cantrell
Bracton Womack, golf at TTU: https://www.wcsportsauthority.com/post/security-federal-college-spotlight-bracton-womack
Emily Mikkola, softball at TWU: https://www.wcsportsauthority.com/post/security-federal-college-spotlight-emily-mikkola