By Matt Goisman
HARTSHORNE — Hartshorne senior running back Dallas Herring’s fate as a football player might’ve been decided the day he was born.
With much of his family from Texas, Herring was named after the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s the biggest thing in my life,” Herring said Wednesday.
Though born in Tulsa, Herring said he’s lived his whole life in Hartshorne. His football career began with Pee Wee games in third grade.
“In third grade against Gore, I had a pretty big hit, and it got all the coaches pretty riled up,” Herring said. “I was playing linebacker at the time.”
Herring said he’s always been a running back, but small-school football usually demands most kids play both sides of the ball. Originally a linebacker on defense, Herring switched to cornerback when he transferred from Haileyville to Hartshorne before his junior year.
“I prefer offense,” Herring said. He added his favorite thing about being a running back is “getting to score.”
Transferring forced Herring to learn an entirely new offensive scheme. Whereas Haileyville snapped with the quarterback under center, Hartshorne used a faster, more complex spread offense.
“I could definitely tell the attitude, it was taken more seriously here,” Herring said. “Everything was more in a serious manner. I liked it.
“Growing up in the ‘Twin Cities’ (of Hartshorne and Haileyville), I knew everybody pretty well. So it was pretty easy to adapt to the new surroundings.”
Herring quickly learned the new system and had no trouble making varsity. He played his first home game in Week 1, taking on Henryetta at Butler-Jennings Field.
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous,” Herring said. “I was excited to play for a new team and get to experience that.
“There are a bunch of little kids running around, looking up to you, a bunch of ex-Miners here to support you. You can definitely feel the school pride.”
Though definitely a contributor on the 2012 Miners team that went 7-4 and made the playoffs, an ongoing ankle injury kept Herring from really shining. Hoping to come back stronger and faster for his senior year, Herring joined Hartshorne’s powerlifting program in the winter — he made State in the 168-pound class — and ran track in the spring.
The strategy paid off, as Herring has stayed injury-free through the first half of the 2013 season. He’s been a key part of a Miners offense that’s averaged 37.5 points through the first six games, including a 62-point performance on Oct. 11 against Hugo.
“Our offense ran for over 400 yards as a team,” Herring said of the Hugo game.
“It’s flying by, senior year.”
As someone who watches football “every day,” Herring said his favorite teams are the New York Jets and the University of Texas Longhorns. This has generated a few good-natured arguments with his teammates, he said, as most of them root for either the Oklahoma Sooners or Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Herring added he’s especially enjoyed being a Longhorns fan this week, having watched them upset the Sooners on Saturday.
Herring said he’s tried to draw inspiration from Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, because Sanders always looked elusive and could rarely be tackled by just one defender. Defenders have had a tough time tackling Herring as well, especially in the backfield.
“When I get the ball, I don’t really think,” Herring said. “Everything is just instinct. I just look for the first hole I see and try to make something out of it.”
Herring added that his favorite play is a counter run to the right side that he can usually turn into a big gain.
Herring’s played well enough so far to attract the attention of schools such as Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, the University of Southern Arkansas in Magnolia and MidAmerica Nazarene in Olathe, Kan. None have offered an actual scholarship, he said, but as a worst-case scenario Herring would probably go to NSU and try to walk onto the team.
Herring said he plans to major in education. The goal is to become and English teacher and a football coach, having learned a great deal from all of Hartshorne’s coaches, especially Justin James.
“I’ve never met anybody who’s as honest or means as well as he does,” Herring said of James. “The way he carries himself demands respect.”
With Herring’s focus and determination, how he carries himself demands respect as well.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org