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For the Chronicle
Dallas Baldner, the former all-everything playmaker for the Crystal River Pirates football team, is confident about his opportunities this fall with Valdosta State University following a freshman year of learning the ropes and practicing with the scout team.
“My first year was definitely tougher than I expected,” Baldner said. “Coming from a small town and playing alongside national championship players took some getting used to.
“Red-shirting was the right thing for me to do because not only did we have a ton of returning receivers … bound for the NFL, it gave me the opportunity to really grasp the playbook.”
Red-shirting allows for a player to put his four years of eligibility on hold, play on the scout team and learn the system.
“As a scout team player I did really well and got the coaches excited for my role in the future,”
Baldner said. “As spring rolled around I became adapted to my teammates and coaches and did really well by moving my way up on the depth chart to the No. 2 spot.”
Becoming a starter may be a tall order, but not something anyone should put past Baldner, the Citrus County Chronicle’s Co-Football Player of the Year his junior season and finalist for the Chronicle’s Offensive Player of the Year his senior season.
During his career, Baldner scored 24 touchdowns and amassed 2,674 yards on 191 carries, 30 receptions, 14 kickoff returns and 17 punt returns. He scored five times in a game against Williston his senior year; one on a kickoff return, two receiving and two rushing.
He earned 5A All-State honorable mention, and was ranked No. 5 in the state of Florida by MaxPreps. He was named to the Florida-Panhandle Super 60 team in 2012.
After his success in high school a number of schools sought Baldner’s skills for their programs, but Valdosta State University stood out amongst the rest. VSU is a Division II football superpower located in southern Georgia. The football team has won the Division II National championship three times (2004, 2007 and 2012).
Football isn’t the only reason Baldner chose to make the move to VSU.
“Two of the main reasons I chose this school are how beautiful the campus is and the fact that they offer what I am looking for in academics,” he said. “I plan on double majoring in Business Management and Health Care Administration.”
Baldner, though, hasn’t been disappointed with the atmosphere surrounding game day.
“Game days are an added bonus,” Baldner said. “They are absolutely crazy. Everybody tailgates down this long road in front of the stadium and cheerleaders, the band and the whole football team parade down the road to greet family, friends and of course, all of the other fans.
“It’s a great atmosphere. Pretty much everyone in Valdosta is there to support us.”
The upcoming year for Baldner is filled with goals and expectations.
“Fall camp this year starts on Aug. 9, and I feel prepared physically and mentally,” he said. “I have focused a lot on my footwork, speed training and strength training this summer and I believe it will pay off.
“I expect to compete for the starting job and definitely see playing time as a receiver and on kick-off and punt returns.”