HAMPTON ——With that chiseled look and NFC East first name, you'd guess that Dallas Cogdell went immediately from his rattle and pacifier to shoulder pads and a helmet. Not so. In fact, he was in middle school before he became interested in football.
"He had just turned 12," said Cogdell's father, also named Dallas. "He told me he wanted to play. I told him, 'If you make the honor roll, you can play.' And he did."
That's how it began. And today, Cogdell is one of the biggest reasons why Hampton has won seven in a row entering Saturday night's Eastern Region Division 5 semifinal against Norcom.
Cogdell, who starts at defensive tackle and is in the rotation at running back, took quickly to the game. There was a brief hiccup: Because he was so big, they made him play juniors instead of intermediate his first year. Not that it mattered.
"My coach said that as soon as I put the pads on," Cogdell said, "I became an animal."
He's always had the look of a football player. It's not just his size — 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, according to the roster. It's also his physique, which looks straight out of Men's Health magazine.
"He looked like a grown man when I first saw him in ninth grade," Crabber coach Mike Smith said. "He's always been a mature looking kid."
Cogdell says it's natural. He doesn't camp out in the weight room, and he's not that particular about what he eats. ("Fried chicken and steaks," he said).
You can't beat good genes.
"(His grandfather) comes from 13 brothers and sisters, and the majority of them are 6-2 or taller," said Cogdell's dad, who played at Menchville in the late 1980s. "And they're all built like Dallas."
As for that first name, which immediately makes one think of a silver helmet and blue star, that's also been passed down through the Cogdell men. Cogdell's father and grandfather both became Cowboy fans. Cogdell himself rebelled; he roots for the Falcons.
Incidentally, Smith calls Cogdell "Big D." Maybe "Doomsday" would be better.
As a sophomore, Cogdell emerged as a promising running back (37 carries, 141 yards, five touchdowns) and linebacker. As a junior, he rushed for 599 yards on 84 attempts with 12 touchdowns. He also moved from linebacker to tackle, which made the Crabbers' defense even quicker up front.
This season, with more depth in the backfield, Cogdell hasn't been used as much on offense — 54 carries, 287 yards, four touchdowns. But he remains a force on the defensive line, where he made first-team All-Peninsula District for the second consecutive season.
"He's much more effective inside," Smith said. "He's a guy with experience in there, and we can always drop him in coverage as a linebacker. But he's much better up inside."
To Cogdell, where he lines up doesn't matter.
"As long as I'm hitting somebody," he said. "I love a good hit."
Cogdell has made plenty over the years, but his biggest moment this season was on special teams. In the final game of the regular season, Hampton seemed certain to lose to Phoebus for the seventh straight time. The score was tied at 7 with 13 seconds left, and the Phantoms' Eric Enderson was on for the winning field goal.
Instead, Cogdell broke through the line and blocked it. The Crabbers won in overtime.
As for college, Cogdell will end up somewhere. Marshall has offered, and Virginia Tech is among other schools who are interested. As for what position, most recruiters like him on offense. Smith believes that's where he'll end up.
"I think on offense he might play running back or H-back," Smith said. "He's so multi-talented."