Dakota Paschall has secured an invitation to play in a high school all-star football game — a chance almost any high school player would covet.
Paschall was selected for the Blue-Gray All-American Bowl Dec. 18 at AT&T Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. It will be televised on ESPN3.
It’s one of four Blue-Grey All-American Bowl games, along with one Jan. 6 in Tampa, Florida; Jan. 13 in Jacksonville, Florida; and again at AT&T Cowboys Stadium, Jan. 22.
But the 6-2, 184-pound wide receiver, starting his senior year with the Glen Rose Tigers, said there’s somewhere else he’d rather be that week.
He hopes to be getting ready with his teammates for a state championship game. The 2017 state final for Class 4A, Division II, which Glen Rose will be seeking under head coach Cliff Watkins, will be at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 22.
“I hope I don’t play (in the all-star game),” Paschall said. “If I do get to play, I’ll be representing Glen Rose and all the small schools.”
Paschall stood out among 90 receivers competing in the Southwest Super Regional Combine, June 24-25 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. He later received a letter stating that he had been selected to play in the all-star game among the elite players from states that included California, Florida, Oklahoma and Missouri.
“I was in disbelief at first,” said Paschcall, who also had competed in an earlier combine held in Dallas, because two were required. “I was like, wow.”
SPEED HARD TO IGNORE
Paschall said he posted the fastest time in the shuttle among the receivers at the Arlington Combine. He had a time of 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which ranked No. 1 among Texas receivers at the event, and second behind only a wideout from Oklahoma (4.44).
After checking out the website for the All-American Blue-Grey Bowl and finding his name on the roster, he realized he had made it — competing against some of the state’s best high school defensive backs.
Paschall’s speed was evident before this year, of course. He qualified for the area track meet last spring in the 100-meter dash, and his best time so far in the 40 is an impressive 4.44 seconds.
The process of qualifying for the Blue-Grey Bowl began with 6,560 high school players from across the nation competing for a spot at 27 separate combines. Just 90 were chosen, by a selection committee that included former NFL players.
“A lot of the kids had Division I (college scholarship) offers,” Paschall said Monday evening. “There was a lot of talent there. There were players from Southlake (Carroll) and Allen (large Class 6A schools).”
In addition to competing against receivers from much larger schools, Paschall said he had to overcame an injury — and the resulting nervousness.
“It was emotional. I had a hip injury (flexor tendon) the week before,” said Paschall, 17. “I really wasn’t ready for it. I was so nervous about my hip.”
Paschall said he hadn’t been playing wide receiver until last season, when the Tigers unleashed a prolific passing attack under the direction of head coach Cliff Watkins.
This season, Paschall’s talent has also resulted in an expansion of his role with the Tigers. He is currently penciled in as a starter at cornerback on defense, in addition to playing wideout on offense.
Paschall said he’s enjoying the added load so far.
“I’m loving every bit of it,” he said.
In 2016 he finished fourth on the team in pass receptions, and two went for touchdowns.
But he admitted that he would not have had the ability, nor the route-running expertise, to qualify for the all-star game a year ago.
“Last year was the first year I ever played receiver,” said Paschall, who had been a defensive back and running back. “I improved so fast the last three months. My routes improved.”
Paschall said he improved with the help of assistant coaches Erik Hartman and Jacob Marwitz. Hartman is Watkins’ outside receivers coach, while Marwitz is the assistant offensive coordinator and worked with the tight ends and offensive line.
WORK PAYING OFF
Qualifying for the all-star game seems like a validation of his hard work, Paschall said.
He has communicated with several colleges about potentially playing football, including Augustana (South Dakota), Incarnate Word (San Antonio), Weber State (Utah), Abilene Christian University and Methodist University (North Carolina).
Paschall moved to Somervell County from Joshua with his parents, Kreyton and Janice Paschall, prior to his freshman year at GRHS.
He was pleased that one of his old friends from Joshua also earned an invitation to the Blue-Grey game. He is Hayden Chittum, an all-Johnson County running back for Joshua High School.
“I’ll play as hard as I can,” Paschall said of the Blue-Grey game. “I’ve been seriously working on football since the first grade. I never realized it would come to this level. I am blessed right now.”