<
>

ILB Dalton Santos is on a mission

Under Armour All-American linebacker Dalton Santos (Van, Texas/Van) plays football a little like he plays "Call of Duty," a military-style first-person shooter video game.

Eliminate everything in sight.

"When I'm out on that field I just want to pop somebody right in the mouth," Santos said. "I don't what it is, it's kind of crazy actually, but I just play fast and hard."

A tackling machine and a freak in the weight room, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Santos isn't afraid to deliver the first blow … and the second -- on the rare occasions it's necessary.

"If you're in my way and I have to run you over to get to the football that's what I'm going to do," Santos said. "I like that mentality. I like meeting someone in the hole full speed and hearing their ears ring. I love contact. That's what I live for."

Originally the first commitment in the 2012 class of Oklahoma State, Santos has backed off that a little and now the top-rated inside linebacker wants to look around a bit.

He has offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Arkansas, TCU and about 20 other schools. Oklahoma State, a school that has stood out to him since he was a sophomore, is still in the mix, but Santos wants to be sure before he makes his final decision.

"I think I need to look around for a bit and check some places so I can find the right fit," he said. "I know I'm going to Texas A&M on July 17 and then I'm going to hit a few schools in a week -- Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida for sure. I don't know all of the dates yet."

As more of the top programs in the nation jump into Santos' recruiting they are impressed with a player who seems to have a knack for being near the football.

"I've been playing middle linebacker since I was little and it's just second nature with me now," Santos said. "I don't hear anything when I'm out there, I just react. You can call it instinct or whatever, but I know what to look for and how to get there.

"I've had great coaches, too, and they have helped get the most out of me. Everyone says I have a bright future as long as I keep working hard and listening and praying. That's what I do."

Santos is a man for all seasons. When he's not playing football or running track he loves to enjoy the outdoors in his hometown of approximately 2,600.

"There aren't too many people here for sure," Santos said. "We've got a Sonic and a grocery store and if you blink you'll pretty much miss Van. But I love to get together with my brother and my friends and we'll go fishing and hunting or ride around in the four-wheelers. Just have a good time."

This time of year Santos and his friends will be going after some wild hogs but when the linebacker is in hunting mode he tends to take a pretty basic approach.

"The way I look at things, if it flies it dies," Santos joked.

After some time in the outdoors and of course the weight room, Santos' time shifts from live game hunting to virtual hunting and "Call of Duty."

"We'll have some friends over for a big tournament and I'm just wrecking things left and right baby," Santos said. "No one can stop me in that game."

Santos also will play some NCAA Football, but he defers to his younger brother when asked who the best is.

"He's really, really good, he can use any team, like Troy or something, and just make them world beaters," Santos said. "I like to run around with the good teams like Texas or Alabama, but he can beat me with anyone."

Before settling in Van, the Santos family lived in Dallas. When the opportunity came to purchase a restaurant outside of Van, the family moved.

"The restaurant, Don Santos' Mexican Grill, was really successful," Santos said. "At first people didn't think it would work out but we were located in Edom, Texas, and there are five towns around Edom and you had to go through Edom to get to any one of those towns so people were coming in and out of the restaurant all day. It was crazy."

Unfortunately the restaurant burned down last year under different ownership. The Santoses tried to recover the facility but were not able to do it.

"We had leased it out and the place burned when an air conditioning unit overheated and caught fire," Santos said. "They wouldn't sell it back to us; it was a bad deal all around."

Still there isn't much that can keep Santos down for too long. As a player who models his game after future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, Santos stays motivated to be the best.

"They are great leaders and probably the hardest workers in the game and I just like how nasty they are on the field," Santos said. "They don't care; they will pop you in the mouth. That's the way I want to be on the field.

Santos' daily workouts include lots of lifting and running. He likes to say he works out the equivalent of "about 14 days a week."

He gets motivation wherever he can, including with the ESPNU 150, where he is top-rated inside linebacker in the nation.

"I saw that I was like 93rd or something, is that right?" Santos asked. "You know I'm extremely happy about being the top inside linebacker, but I'm pretty sure I can go up quite a bit in the overall 150.

"I think I can bring a lot more to the table so I'm going to keep grinding and working hard. I want to know that when I lay down at night that I did everything I could to be the best."