MARSHFIELD, Mass. -- As the No. 8 ranked tight end in the country, Marshfield High product Danny Dalton had feelers out from several high school football All-American games. But when an invitation came in from the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, which is sponsored by the United States Marines, the Penn State commit was immediately on board, for reasons that extend well beyond the gridiron.
A number of Dalton’s relatives have served in the military over several generations, including his grandfather Thomas Francis “Frank” Dalton, who fought in the Korean War and currently resides in Manahawkin, N.J.
So when the Semper Fi game came calling, Dalton says, “I couldn’t turn it down, because of all the things it stands for.”
“[My grandfather’s] house is just…you walk in, there’s a big Uncle Sam in a Marine Corps uniform,” Dalton said this afternoon from the auditorium at Marshfield High, where he was official presented with his All-American jersey. “He was in the Korean War, and that’s a war that people kinda forget about.
“He’s so proud of the fact that he was able to serve our country. Those values were really bestowed unto me. Obviously I’m not serving my country, but to be able to play for a game that means something like that is really special for me.”
— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) September 30, 2015
Over and over again, Dalton spoke with humility about the honor of being named an All-American.
“There’s a couple of plaques down the hallway of people from other sports that were All-Americans. I don’t know if there’s going to be a plaque of me up there, but just to be called an All-American and earning is crazy,” Dalton said. “You think about All-Americans, that’s the best of the best. For me to be in that category is crazy. I’m really appreciative of all the opportunities I’ve gotten to be able to do that, from everyone that’s helped me along the way.”
Dalton, along with two linemen -- Boston College-bound Sean Ragan of St. John’s of Shrewsbury, and Syracuse commit Cam DeGeorge of Lynnfield -- will be representing the Bay State on the East squad, when the game takes place on Jan. 3, 2016, at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The game is set to be televised on Fox Sports 1.
The last time Dalton was on TV, he made one of the most absurd catches ever made in a high school game at Gillette Stadium, as the Rams cruised to a 45-6 rout of Longmeadow to capture the MIAA Division 2 State Championship.
And ever since, the 6-foot-5, 244-pound Dalton has been the talk of Massachusetts schoolboy football. He earned ESPNBoston All-State honors after leading the Rams in every major receiving category (56 catches, 765 yards, 9 TD). He committed to Boston College in February, only to renege a few weeks later after Alabama offered, then committed to Penn State in May over offers from two dozen other schools across the Power Five conferences.
This year, Dalton has carried a crater-sized target on his back with the Rams, who have been ranked the No. 1 team in ESPNBoston’s statewide poll all season long. So far he’s handled it well, once again leading the run-heavy Rams in every receiving category through three games (10 catches, 172 yards, 2 TD).
“There’s always a target [on me] going into games,” Dalton said. “If I do something wrong -- which, I mean, happens, I’ll miss a block or tackle – they’ll be saying ‘Penn State’ or something. But that doesn’t bother me that much. I know what kind of player I am, and I know there’s a target on my back, but it’s a team sport. If they want to go after me, we’ve got 10 other guys on the field that can make plays. It hasn’t been that big of a deal.”
Dalton visited Happy Valley this weekend to see the Nittany Lions beat San Diego State before some 107,000-plus fans. While there has been worry over at State College about recruits potentially backing out of verbal commitments after the Lions’ sluggish start, the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium re-affirmed all of the reasons why he committed to Penn State and coach James Franklin months ago.
“One drive, San Diego State was at the one-yard line and had to burn two timeouts because they couldn’t hear the play,” Dalton said. “It’s crazy, I’ve never been to a game like that. A Patriots game doesn’t even compare to the atmosphere around a Penn State game.”