Dave Dallas knew his oldest son Drew was destined to be a successful football coach at an early age.
“He was in the first grade in Ottawa and I came home and he had three plays drawn up on a napkin,” said Dallas, who later served as head coach at Kansas Wesleyan for 17 seasons. “He said ‘hey dad what do you think of these plays?’ He had the players, he had blocking schemes on them – I told Kelly (his wife) those plays make sense and I think they’d work.’
“There was no question he was going to be a great head coach.”
It didn’t take long for Drew, a KWU graduate who played quarterback for the Coyotes during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, to prove his father was right.
Patrolling the sidelines in his first season as head coach at Hutchinson Community College this spring Dallas led the Blue Dragons to the NJCAA national championship. It culminated with a 29-27 come-from-behind victory over Snow (Utah) in the title game June 5 in Little Rock, Ark., and was the first national championship in the program’s 89-year history.
Not bad for a guy who was in his first year as a head coach at any level and was forced to wait nearly 15 months before his first game because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Overcoming adversity all year long was the biggest key to success,” Drew Dallas said. “Nothing was going to keep them from their goal. Understanding that you’ve got to show up for work every day regardless of the circumstance was really one thing that stood out throughout the course of the last 15, 16 months.”
HCC trailed 21-10 in the third quarter of the championship game but battled back.
“It was great to see that come to fruition in the national championship game because that’s really what we’d focused on throughout the whole course of the COVID deal,” he said.
Dallas was a standout quarterback at Salina Central and played his first two college seasons at Fort Hays State before transferring to Wesleyan to join his father. Playing two seasons for the Coyotes was valuable training for the Hutchinson job.
“I remember that (2007-08) senior class and we were pretty close,” Dallas said. “Those things had to be developed throughout the course of the time at K-Dub. I was only there for two years and that’s similar to the junior college level where you’ve got new teammates and you’ve got to figure out how to develop those relationships and develop leadership traits and do it in a short amount of time.
“We had guys from all over the country – California, Texas, all over the place – and we see a lot of the same stuff here in Hutch where you have to recruit nationwide. Just bringing a team together from all over and making sure everybody’s working in the same direction to accomplish the same goal.”
Drew Dallas coached KWU’s quarterback and wide receivers for his father during the 2009 and 2010 seasons before going to Angelo State (Texas) where served in various offensive capacities from 2011-18. Former HCC coach Rion Rhoades hired Dallas as his offensive coordinator prior to the 2019 season and he was promoted to head coach December 31, 2019 after Rhoades took an assistant coaching job at the University of Arkansas.
Drew Dallas points to a piece of advice his father gave him that has served him well.
“He always said ‘put your own twist on it, be you and don’t be afraid to do that,'” he said. “That really helped in this job with the transition from coach Rhoades to what we’re doing now.
“Following coach Rhoades in my mind I’m following a hall of fame Jayhawk Conference coach. There were a lot of things I wanted to do just like he did and carry on that tradition but also knowing maybe it wasn’t my personality to do something. I’d always go back to those things he said – put your own twist, put your own spin on it.”
Drew Dallas also preaches taking things one day at a time – a refrain he heard countless times from his father. It was particularly valuable during the pandemic that saw the start of Blue Dragons’ season opener delayed until March 26, 2021.
“It had to be day-by-day because you don’t know what’s going to change in two hours,” Dave Dallas said. “It’s got to be day-by-day, minute by minute almost (with Covid) on top of being a head for the first time. There’s no playbook for what had to be done. I’ve coached for 38 years and I’d never been through it.”
The delay was hard on everyone in the program.
“There was a whole new staff on the defensive side of the ball,” Drew Dallas said. “A lot of new guys in our football program, we didn’t have any returning starters from the 2019 team, really didn’t have a whole lot of guys that played since 2018 and were seniors in high school. We didn’t get a spring (practice session), we did get a fall but we lost two weeks because of COVID. There were a lot of unknowns for us.”
After winning the national championship the expectations will be sky high going forward, but Drew Dallas isn’t concerned.
“We got the expectation part going into the very first game of the season when the NJCAA put the No. 1 (ranking) put on our backs,” he said. “When that happened, I looked around and thought obviously they hadn’t watched us practice.”
Dave Dallas, who coaches at Grandview High School in Hillsboro, Mo., traveled each weekend to watch his son coach, but was just a spectator.
“Drew is his own guy,” he said. “If he asks a question I’m going to answer, if he doesn’t, I’m not going to tell him. I really tried to be dad and it’s been really fun for me to do that. I’m really proud of him.”