Versailles senior Dallas Waller discovered his potential.

Versailles senior Dallas Waller discovered his potential.

After running relays on the track and field team with football players as a sophomore, he decided to step on the gridiron as a junior and see what he was made of. Now, he will have the opportunity to push his potential to new heights after signing with the University of Central Missouri on Monday.

“It means a lot to me,” Waller said of the future he carved for himself. “From day one my junior year I thought about playing college football and it has been a goal of mine. I’m happy to achieve it, especially at a school like UCM. It is going to be tough competition and I’m excited to see what I can do there.”

Not a bad outcome for someone who only returned to the game as a junior after playing some middle school ball.

In 2018, Waller put up some respectable numbers, hauling in 48 receptions for 480 yards and three touchdowns while adding 116 rushing yards and two additional scores over 12 games.

Then, a proverbial light bulb went off as he more than doubled those numbers this past fall.

“End of junior year I started figuring out the game, how it worked in high school, the faster pace and Coby (Williams) helped me a lot, obviously,” Waller said of the All-State quarterback. “He is a really good quarterback so props to him and Coach (Broc) Silvers.”

The 6-foot-2 Waller significantly became the team’s top receiving threat this past season with 100 receptions for 1,280 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games. According to statistics available on maxpreps.com, he finished 135th in receiving yards across all classes in the country and tied for 15th in receptions.

At Versailles, he became the new owner of multiple school records along the way. Waller holds four of the top five spots for receiving yards in a single game with the most being 219 yards in a game against Southern Boone this past fall where he broke his own record for receptions with 22. Unsurprisingly, Waller holds the record for single season receptions and receiving yards. For his efforts, Waller was named a second team wide receiver on the Class 2 All-State list.

“Without Dallas we had other capable receivers, but Dallas added some length and explosiveness the last year, especially,” said Silvers, the team’s former Head Coach who recently took a position as an assistant football coach at Westminster College in Fulton. “This was the first year we had four or five really good guys we felt like we could throw to, but Dallas was uncoverable. People were double-teaming him and they are having to triple team him which opens up (Michael) Bell or (Brayden) Morrison and that was huge for us.”

The game became fun for Waller, but it did not come without the work he put in and he attributed some of his success to the other sports he has played.

“Lots of hard work in the weight room, on the track, playing basketball and sports I did not want to play, triple jumping, all of it,” he pointed out. “Every sport I’ve ever played in my whole entire life has led to this moment and I’m excited for it.”

And through it all, Silvers said he was glad that Waller had the privilege of attending a school that was his first choice. He noted that the hard part was making sure the senior had the opportunity, only having played football for two years and at the Class 2 level in Missouri which may not get as much attention as the larger classes.

But it may turn out to be a great investment as the coach noted there is still plenty of room for Waller to grow.

“They talked about putting him at tight end, putting some weight on him and redshirting him for a year, which he definitely could do,” he stated. “His routes got a lot better and his knowledge of the game will continue to grow, but they are not getting a polished product. They are getting a really good kid.

No different than those early days on the track, the coach envisions a similar narrative and timeline to the one Waller established at Versailles.

“He has only been in the weight room two years and he is going to have a great track season, I’m sure, and get better there,” Silvers said of the senior who was also an All-State triple jumper as a junior. “They are getting a guy who is not a finished product yet and with really good coaching, the weight room and program they have, I expect Dallas to be a really good player for them.

“I’m glad it worked out for Dallas. He got to go where he wanted to go and I hope in four or five years there he is probably an All-American tight end.”

Well, Waller will surely be looking forward to finding out. Good thing he feels comfortable with his next stop at the Division II school in Warrensburg, Mo., where he intends to study criminal justice.

“Everyone was so inviting on my visit and all the players and coaches are super nice,” Waller said. “Coach Jim Svoboda seems like a really good coach and really good guy. Super football smart, so they kind of drew me in and once you check all those boxes at UCM it is kind of hard to not want to go there.

“Being on the team, making new friends and getting that camaraderie built up will be a lot of fun.”

That is exactly the kind of environment he felt he had at Versailles, where he will always remember his time with the program as one that was always focused on a team effort, no matter the kind of numbers he put up individually. A new chapter is about to begin and the lesson from his story is a simple one.

“You have to put in the work if you want to get the reward,” he said.