October 21, 2009 9:16:00 AM
When David Dale signed a scholarship to play football at Millsaps College, Pat Byrd thought it was a good choice.
Time has proven the Amory High School coach to be right about his former player.
Dale, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive lineman from Amory, is in his third season as a starter and is a senior leader of Millsaps'' defense.
"I knew he would fit in well at Millsaps," Byrd said. "A lot of kids struggle with the athletics and academics down there, but I knew David would do well."
Dale leads Millsaps with eight sacks for a loss of 46 yards and 11 1/2 tackles for a loss of 55 yards. He is third on the team with 51 tackles.
He also has excelled in the classroom, earning All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference academic honors as a sophomore and as a junior.
"He''s got a great balance to his life," said Millsaps coach Mike DuBose, who was the University of Alabama''s football coach from 1997-2000. "He''s a complete player. To be a complete player you have to be a fine student first and you have to be a disciplined football player second, and David is both of those."
Dale had five tackles Saturday to help Millsaps beat Rhodes College 38-22 and improve to 4-3 and 3-1 in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Millsaps has a chance to move into a tie for first place in the SCAC on Saturday when it plays Centre College (6-0, 3-0 SCAC).
"I feel like it''s going pretty well, but we''re having a tougher season than we have had in past seasons," Dale said. "We lost our first conference game in a couple of years. We were undefeated in the conference last year. We''re not used to losing in the conference and lost this year for the first time in a while. We''re just getting used to having some new people at different positions. I think we''re going to do all right this coming week, hopefully.
"We''re trying to win this week to be in a spot to contend for a playoff spot."
The Majors'' loss to DePauw University on Oct. 3 snapped an 11-game conference winning streak. Their last conference loss was the Mississippi Miracle 15-lateral finish on Oct. 27, 2007.
Of all his contributions on defense, Dale said he gets the most enjoyment out of sacking the quarterback.
"That''s always helped the team because it''s a big play," Dale said. "It''s usually on third down and creates a change of possession. I think they''re big momentum builders. We like to get sacks. A big concern for us is getting pressure on the quarterback.
"That''s the most exciting thing I can think of doing on defense except for scoring a touchdown. Sacks are pretty fun."
DuBose said Dale''s discipline and ability to play within the system allow him to have success rushing the quarterback. But he said Dale is more than just a sack machine.
"He tries to do the things he''s coached to do," DuBose said. "Defensive football is a progression. You have to see something and once you see it you have to react to it and once you react to it you have to hit it. The end result is he makes more plays than anybody else because he plays fundamentally sound football. He is a very good run defender, but he''s also our best pass rusher.
"David reads his keys and when he''s supposed to play the run he does and when he''s supposed to play the screen he does, and when it''s a three- to five-step drop back pass he rushes the passer. He''s just a good defensive player for us."
Byrd believed Dale''s performance at Amory High convinced him he would become a good player at Millsaps.
"He was a strong high school player," Byrd said. "He was very versatile. He was so explosive. A kid that strong in high school who could run like he could run is very rare."
Byrd isn''t surprised Dale leads the Majors in sacks and tackles for loss.
"He is cat quick and if he gets his hands on you, at any level, I don''t care if it''s high school or college, he''s so strong you''re not going anywhere," Byrd said.
With three regular-season games and possible playoff games remaining in his career at Millsaps, Dale, an accounting major, plans to get his master''s degree and CPA at Millsaps.
"I''m going to go into either banking or work at a CPA firm," Dale said.
DuBose said Dale is a motivated young man who has a tremendous future ahead of him.