Doss finds a new role in leading Panthers as coach

By Griff Servati
For the Van Alstyne Leader

It is not uncommon to grow up in Texas with dreams of playing for the hometown team on Friday night. Dalton Doss was one of those boys, growing up loving the game of football, playing since day one in first grade.

In my time being on the sideline of the Panthers, I cannot remember a player loving the game more. VAHS football coach Mikeal Miller concurred in saying, "A lot of kids will play sports this year, and they will learn a lot of lessons from being on a team, but I don't know that any of them have the heart; that Dalton does."

Dalton Doss on the sideline this season due to a medical condition that caused his to transfrom his role for his senior season.

That is why when a year ago this week, it was heartbreaking for Dalton Doss to learn that he would not be able to take the field for his senior season. It was the Aubrey game last season, Doss went for a tackle, his knee locked up, and he collapsed. He said, "I was on the ground, I couldn't feel anything, and at that moment, I thought I was paralyzed."

Following the game, meeting with doctors, he would find out the diagnosis: Cervical Spinal Stenosis. Cervical Spinal Stenosis occurs from spinal stenosis that causes pressure on the spinal cord. If untreated, this can lead to significant and permanent nerve damage, including paralysis and death. With that diagnosis, taking the field to tackle another player would be out of the question for Dalton.

Dalton Doss led his team in more ways than just through the tunnel.
Dalton Doss on the sideline this season due to a medical condition that caused his to transfrom his role for his senior season.

When the season started in August, Doss would not be on the field with his lifelong teammates, and he was honest in saying, "I struggled this year, seeing my boys out there without me on the field." He also was mature in realizing that there are more important things than playing in the game, "I realized that I am still here. I am still with them. I need to figure out how I can still be a part of the team without making any tackles."

Coach Miller was proactive in keeping Doss on his team, saying, "Moving forward from the diagnosis, I thought he might get out of athletics and get a job or something because being an athlete requires a large time commitment. We talked to him about staying with us, finding a role he could contribute to our team."

Doss and teammates on Senior Night with the band performing the school song.

Mikeal Miller would put Dalton's hard-work ethic and passion for the game to work for the team. Dalton would become "Coach Doss," helping serve the team by being scout team prep work with coaches and becoming a team manager, getting stuff ready for the practices and games, and being the team DJ with the onfield stereo.

"Dalton has been a huge asset to our program this year. He is just like having another coach on our staff. " VAHS offensive coordinator Taylor Penn said of Doss, continuing he said, "He helps out wherever we ask him to no matter how big, or little the job is, and that speaks volumes about his character. Dalton has filled a variety of roles from weight room DJ to scout team quarterback whatever he does Dalton does with a smile on his face."

Doss and his teammates praying together on Senior Night.

This season, "Coach Doss" has led his team through the tunnel and onto the field. That was the extent of his time on the field until the Senior Night game against Sanger. Doss suited up for the game in pads one last time. They were not his pads and helmet; he borrowed them from a JV player. With the Panthers in control of the game, an odd site happened; a number 50 was entered the field and lined up in the running back position. The VAHS student section went crazy in cheering seeing Dalton on the field. The Panthers called a timeout before snapping the ball, letting Doss leave the field one last time on Senior Night.

As Doss left the playing field and entered the sideline, surrounded by his teammates cheering and clapping for him, he dropped to his knees. 

Coach Mikeal Miller with "Coach Doss" during the postgame huddle.

From the emotion of the moment, he said, "it touched me when I came off the field, seeing everyone cheering and rooting for me."

The term "Coach Doss" is something Dalton would like to retain as he plans to pursue a career in coaching. He had planned to pursue a career in law enforcement, but with his condition, this is also something that has had to change in the past year. Dalton said of becoming a coach it just makes sense because, as he said, "I love the game."