Texas Longhorns freshman middle linebacker Dalton Santos is starting to develop a reputation. Among fans, among his teammates, coaches. Also, with opposing players.
Delivering a handful of big hits in kickoff coverage through only two games has a tendency to do that. Actually, though, it took Santos less than two games to develop that reputation with opposing players.
In fact, Santos described on Tuesday ($) a scene from the New Mexico game. He was closing in on a Lobo ballcarrier near the sideline. What does someone says before they get hit by Santos? "Oh, no," of course. Wouldn't you?
When I made that tackle on the sideline in the New Mexico game, the guy I hit said, 'Oh no.' Literally, I promise you that happened. I thought it was pretty neat. He literally looked at me square in the eyes and said, 'Oh no.' It was nuts. But it was cool. Then I lowered the boom on him.
There's a reason his teammates call him Crazy White Dude. Kid just picks up nicknames and monikers -- Hellboy, Roadhouse, Man From Van, the lovable maniac.
Santos just has that mentality:
Every play, you have to have that intention to come downhill and just blow people up. I don't think I'm crazy. A bunch of guys call me crazy. They call me 'Crazy White Boy.' I don't know. That's the name I've got. I like it. It's pretty cool. It's different. I don't know.
Bro, you're definitely crazy. Definitely. There is no debating this. But it's the good kind of crazy.
Fellow linebacker Tevin Jackson sensed that crazy on Santos quickly:
I knew he was going to be part of the "Wild Bunch" as soon as he stepped foot. I knew that for a fact, because that has him written all over it. His presence and just [the way he] goes down there and [tackles.] He feeds off that.
Known as a mean dude himself for his infamous Rivals picture mean-mugging in a wifebeater, Jackson no doubt noticed Santos bringing hell with him when he arrived. Kinda easy to notice something like that, especially with McConaughey running around screaming about it and throwing his horns up.
By the way, the Wild Bunch is the name of the kickoff coverage unit. Santos was born to be part of a Wild Bunch at some point in his life.
The Man From Van takes a lot of pride in being a part of the Wild Bunch:
Tremendous pride. Tremendous pride. I mean that bunch there, the "Wild Bunch" – we call it the "Wild Bunch" – I mean those are the guys. Those are the guys that want to run down hill, and just hit people. And make big plays. And get everybody excited. Because we set the tone. Most of the time we’re either on the field first, or on the field the next series. But we set the tone. We come down there and lock somebody up, and [senior S] Kenny Vaccaro is going to go crazy. [Senior DE Alex] "AO" [Okafor] is going to go crazy. Those guys are going to feed off of that. The fans go crazy. And when the fans go crazy, we feed off of it. So just that alone is really neat. We take tremendous pride in it.
Santos has certainly made an impression on Vaccaro, who has named the middle linebacker as one of his favorite young players.
Sometimes being crazy to just runs in the family, and Santos is no exception. He comes by his disposition honestly, as his father was apparently a lunatic on the field as well:
I guess it was from starting at a young age, playing pee-wee football. My dad was always like that. It was just that mentality of being the nastiest dude you can be out there. The mentality of being, "I’m going to be the best player. But not only am I going to be the best player, but I’m going to be the nastiest guy out there." And you want people to know that. You want to have that presence with you. So when you step out on the field – is this guy about to come hit me? That’s the presence you want to carry out there.
The presence of carrying hell with you, apparently.
His father has had some sage advice for him in the past:
When I was young my dad said linebackers are half stupid and crazy. You've got to be half crazy out there but have enough sense to know what you're doing, and then you've gotta not care and throw your body on the line and knock somebody smooth out.
At this rate, somebody is going to get knocked smooth out by Santos. Unless opponents stat performing the Peyton Mannning crumple when he gets in the area, which is hardly out of the question given the reaction of that New Mexico opponent last weekend.
Santos, of course, almost didn't end up at Texas, decommitting late from Tennessee and switching his pledge to the Longhorns. Only two games into his career, he's already a star on special teams and the back-up middle linebacker. So while he's not close to fulfilling his prediction of coming in and earning a starting job, he has shown himself already to be the most valuable among the three linebackers taken in the 2012 class.
The time that he spent down in Orlando at the Under Armour game with several Texas pledges helped convince him that he wanted to become a Longhorn, if possible:
Let me tell you something, those guys in the locker room – [freshman DT] Malcom Brown, [freshman RB] Johnathan Gray, [freshman LB] Peter Jinkens – guys I met down at [an all-star] game, those are really the guys that brought me here. Being out there, and playing with those guys, being able to call the defense and them listening. Just the way we bonded from being on the airplane together. Just from meeting each other. We just clicked. And it was something I didn’t feel at other places. And I knew at that point, if it came knocking here, [Texas] is where I wanted to be. With them dudes. And I wanted to know that I could step out on that field and shed blood, sweat, and tears with them.
Hopefully not too many tears. There's been some sweat already. And if there hasn't been any blood yet, there will be.
That's just how Santos rolls.