RINGLING — At halftime of last week's Class A semifinal at Enid, Ringling football coach Tracy Gandy was surprised about what he saw from his star player.
Jackson Dillon, normally so attentive to every word, lay on the ground trying to find breath.
“He looked horrible,” Gandy said. “He looked a little bit confused.”
Still, though, Dillon made plays. He rushed for more than 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns and played a huge part on defense as Ringling advanced to its first state title game since 2002 with a 35-21 win over Texhoma.
“I just remember trying to catch my breath and not being able to,” Dillon said. “Other than that, I just remember a couple of plays.”
Not long afterward, it became apparent why Dillon was struggling.
The next morning, his elbow was swollen to the size of a softball and he could barely move it.
It turned out a small cut that Dillon had suffered on his elbow during the previous week's game at Wayne had become infected.
“It's amazing to think about what he did,” Gandy said. “He's a warrior.”
The 6-foot-6, 200-pound linebacker/running back is getting back to normal this week, preparing to lead Ringling into the Class A title game against Wynnewood at 1 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
“We're all really excited,” Dillon said. “It's something that hasn't been done here in 10 years, and we want to take advantage of it.”
Dillon's recruiting blew up this summer after he and his father, Rick, sent film to about 40 schools.
Rick played for OU in the mid-to-late '80s.
It didn't take long for one, Memphis, to take a chance and extend an offer.
Dillon quickly committed to the Tigers and coach Justin Fuente, a former Sooner quarterback.
That hasn't stopped more coaches from knocking on his door.
Oklahoma State's Bill Young went to one of Ringling's games. Tulsa and other programs have come knocking as well.
While Dillon said he still feels comfortable with Memphis, he's also not closing any doors.
“The only knock on him is he's a skinny kid,” Gandy said. “Surely they can put 30 pounds on him pretty easily. Right now, he doesn't sit still long enough to gain weight. He works like a Trojan.”
Gandy doesn't limit his assessment of Dillon's work ethic to the football field or even the classroom, either.
Dillon also works on a ranch in the Ringling area during the summer and has helped Gandy at his ranch.
“He'll be out there working daylight to dark,” Gandy said. “He's just a good kid and whoever takes him will get an outstanding human.”
For now, Dillon has one more goal to accomplish — hoisting the gold ball.
That's a memory Dillon hope he gets to keep forever.