The opportunity to teach seventh grade social studies while coaching two sports he loves in football and baseball likely did not make it a very difficult choice to come back to Versailles.
There was always one place on the mind of Dustin Daniels.
A 2008 graduate of Versailles, Daniels applied for teaching jobs around the area after receiving his education degree from Missouri State University, and a position at the school just happened to be available. Safe to say, the opportunity to teach seventh grade social studies while coaching two sports he loves in football and baseball likely did not make it a very difficult choice.
“Just the small-town feel, I love it here,” Daniels said. “Everyone knows everyone, there are great people here, my home is here and my family is here. I was just in that comfort zone and I felt like that helped me step right in, start coaching and be the coach I wanted to be because I was already comfortable with the area and some of the names of the players and stuff like that.
“I was very excited about football because I played here and wanted to come back and help the program because we were down a little bit when I came in. We’ve improved every year after that so I’m pretty excited to keep this upward climb and keep it going.”
An upward climb, it certainly has been. The Tigers were 3-8 two years ago and finished 7-5 last season with an appearance in a district championship game against powerhouse Lamar. It was the program’s first winning season since 2010.
But for Daniels, it is not just about success on the field as he gets to see players live their lives beyond football as well.
“Seeing the kids progress and change,” Daniels said about the rewards of coaching. “Especially being my fifth year, seeing them in middle school my first year and seeing them through high school all four years and seeing what they do after school. Being part of their lives after school and seeing that you made that positive change towards the kids.”
When it comes to football, Daniels said he loves the contact and the fact that it is, “the only time you actually get to put your hands on another person and get away with it.”
He is tasked with leading Tiger wide receivers and defensive backs each day and has seen the game change quite a bit from his own experience as a player. During his days at Versailles teams ran the ball more and now being more pass-oriented, he feels it is especially vital that he do his part well in having that group prepared as the Tigers also like to throw the ball.
“I want to say every position is important but it is really important we do stuff the right way and the positions I’m coaching- I take pride in that,” Daniels noted. “I want them to execute and do what they are supposed to do for us to be successful in this type of offense.”
Good thing he likes the kids he works with each day.
“They are awesome kids. I knew going into college I wanted to go into education and coach because I loved it when I played,” Daniels remarked. “I know some of them, but now I’ve been gone for so long being an ’08 grad that you don’t know the kids or parents as well because they are a new crop and are always changing out. There are always great kids coming through, I love working with them and I’ll always love working with them.”
At the same time, he wondered if he might feel like the outside or unknown guy when he came back to coach and work with a new staff, but that feeling never really came about.
“These guys are awesome, it has been great. They have accepted me with open arms, have given me a lot of responsibility and let me really take on that role as that position coach and help the program out,” the coach stated.
Some of Daniels’ favorite memories coaching Versailles happened last year when the Tigers knocked off a state-ranked conference opponent in Southern Boone and had the opportunity to win a district title at Lamar.
“It was awesome beating them at home. I know that was a turning point for the season last year so I really enjoyed that,” he said of the Southern Boone game.
“We lost the game,” the coach continued about Lamar, “but having that experience- as a player we never made it to the district title game and as a coach we never made it until last year. I just wish the outcome was a little different. Being around those coaches and talking to those coaches being a young coach- it is awesome getting that experience.”
Time will tell what other fun experiences the coach may have the privilege to enjoy, but he is certainly glad that so far it has been right at home with the Tigers.
“The way it is going at Versailles, I could see myself here for a long time. Everything has been positive since I’ve been here and I’ve been making strides forward every year so I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon if they’ll have me,” the coach stated.