By Will McClure
When the Stamford Bulldogs returned to the field to begin two-a-days on August 1, they were greeted by many of the same coaches that they have known since they first put on a pair of shoulder pads. However, one face was brand new to the Bulldogs and the people of Stamford as Coach Dalton DeGraffenreid began his first days as part of the Bulldog coaching staff. Originally from Crane, Texas, DeGraffenreid was an active member of the Crane High School athletic program on the football field and as a skilled pole vaulter in track and field while also becoming a two-time All-State trumpet player in the band. Naturally, DeGraffenreid decided to trade in his football gear for a headset as he eventually decided to become a coach. After spending his first year as a coach and teacher in his hometown of Crane, he eventually found his way to Stamford to begin his second year as a coach as well as begin the next chapter in his career as part of the Stamford Bulldog tradition.
DeGraffenreid graduated from Crane High School in 2012 where he participated in football, basketball, track and even in the high school band. He would then go to school at the University of Minnesota-Morris where he was recruited to play football for the next three years as well as baseball for one year, and he also pole vaulted on the track team for a year. He did not participate in athletics during the spring of his final year of college so he could focus on his studies to graduate and get to coaching, graduating with a degree in social sciences with an emphasis in management and minor in sports management. After spending his first year teaching back at Crane, DeGraffenreid decided to make the move to join the Stamford coaching staff. When asked what brought him to Stamford, DeGraffenreid said that he had always heard great things about Stamford ISD and was excited about the opportunity to coach in a new environment, but it was also a connection with one of the coaches that helped make the decision easier as he stated that he had known Coach Ronnie Casey for a long time. After making the move to Stamford, DeGraffenreid was ready to fill in the many roles that is a Stamford Bulldog coach.
"I coach the inside receivers and the free safeties [in football]," DeGraffenreid said. "And then, during the spring, I'll have all of the pole vaulters and then I'll actually be the head golf coach as well...I'll [also] be teaching 7th and 8th grade science as well." He went on to state that he hoped to bring energy, thinking of himself as an energetic coach with the players as well as bringing a fresh player's view to the next generation of student-athletes. He said that going from a small, West Texas, high school to a small university in Minnesota, he got a chance to see all aspects of the program as the students may see it today, allowing him to bring new experiences and ideas to the staff as well as continue to learn from the Stamford coaches as well, stating that the coaches know exactly what they are talking about and how the players respond well to what they are told. When asked how his youth would possibly affect his relationship with the players, seeing as how he is only a few years older than the senior players, DeGraffenreid said it helps in some respects, but when something needs to be done, the gap makes no difference.
"You know, last year [in Crane] that was definitely one of the big hurdles that we thought I was going to face but it's kind of good and bad. I can relate to the kids really well because I can tell them 'four years ago I was right where you are right now,' so they respond well to that and the kids here are so well coached that when it comes down to where it is time to get to business they see me as a coach and not a player or just as a young guy. Like I've always said, in coaching, it kind of takes the age number out of it because when you're 50 plus years old you're an even better coach than when you were young so when they are taking coaching they are so receptive to it that it doesn't matter whether you're 52 or 22," DeGraffenreid said.
DeGreaffenreid said that one of the biggest challenges that he has faced thus far was returning home for his first year of teaching, saying that most of the town still viewed him as a high school football athlete instead of a coach. He said that while he was trying to establish and make a name for himself as a coach, he was still a student to most people. He went on to say that it was helpful that a lot of people already knew who he was, including the students that he was coaching, but at the same time still wanting to establish himself as a professional rather than as an athlete.
As the school year draws closer, Coach Dalton DeGraffenreid is ready for the challenges that are to come as the year goes on, with one of his goals being that he wants to be successful and wants the team to be successful throughout the year from one sport to the next. He said that he wants to establish a good golf program as a head coach. He ended by saying that that is what he loves about small schools in that the athletes get the opportunity to play multiple sports and get to be successful in more than one area as well as build the player-coach relationships that makes schools like Stamford the best that they can be. Welcome to Stamford, Coach DeGraffenreid, and good luck!