A change is in the air in “Big Country” and defensive end Dylan Douglass couldn’t be happier about it.
Douglass is entering his senior season for an Abilene Christian University football program that is taking the proper steps to legitimize itself at the Division I (Football Championship Subdivision) level.
The Wildcats are opening a new on campus stadium in September, and have brought in Adam Dorrel from Division II power Northwest Missouri State as their new football coach.
Dorrel led the Bearcats to back-to-back national titles the past two years, and is the winningest active head coach in NCAA football at 76-8.
Douglass, a 2014 Canyon graduate, will be a starting for Dorrel when ACU opens its season at New Mexico on Sept. 2.
Doulgass was named a defensive captain during the summer after starting all 11 games at defensive end in 2016.
Douglass made a career-high 47 tackles last year with a sack and eight tackles for a loss.
During his career, he’s played in 28 games at ACU making 82 tackles.
The lone set back in Douglass’ eyes has been the lack of wins. Since Douglass has played for the Wildcats, they’ve amassed an 11-23 record.
Douglass took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his career at ACU with the Amarillo Globe-News sports department.
What did it mean to be named a defensive captain? “I think it’s reassurance as a leader on the team. It makes me know I can make the right decisions for this team. It gave me the confidence to know that my teammates know they trust me.”
What kind of change has new coach Andy Dorrel brought in from Northwest Missouri State? “I think he’s one of those guys that institutes change. He doesn’t freak out about anything. He’s had the team start reading a book on change. He has brought in a completely new tempo. The tempo of practice is fast, the expectation of how we learn the plays and how we’re expected to just the learn the culture. I’m impressed because he’s made it fun again. The past three years have been a grind. Even in spring, there was no pay off with a game we had a lot of fun.”
Having such a successful run at Canyon, has it been tough not getting a lot of wins in the first three years at ACU? “Yes. Especially after coming off that historically, record breaking year at Canyon my senior year. Even before that, growing up playing for my dad, we were used to winning. Douglass’ don’t like to lose. It’s rough to go 2-9, hopefully we’ll change that.”
How much excitement has the new stadium brought to the campus and the city of Abilene? “It’s incredible. I can see the stadium from my bedroom window. We’re all pumped. We’ve all been waiting for it. I believe it will change recruiting and attract a lot of people. The first game is already sold out. When we start winning in that stadium, ACU will be on the rise.”
What are goals for yourself this senior season? “I wanted to have everyone on the team bought in 100 percent. We had a lot of guys playing for themselves in the past. The team is ready to go and we’re excited. It’s a positive atmosphere and that’s all I’ve wanted.”
It’s hard for you to see it now, but five to 10 years down the road what will you think it will mean to know you helped set the foundation for ACU’s jump to Division I football? “To me it will be a big deal. Just to see the campus go from having no stadium, to having one. I lived through the transition and I’m seeing it get better. That will mean the most.”
Your younger brother Dayne is going to be a freshman linebacker at Texas A&M-Commerce. What advice have you given him? “He reminds me of my first experience when I was starting. I tell him to just be prepared. The game is so much faster. All of the players are so strong. Everyone out there was the best player on their team in high school. I just want him to go out and develop a work ethic that is second to none and be prepared for everything.”