THERE was a time when Dalton Bateman wanted to be a visible force on the Columbus East defense.
Now, he’s content with being a cog in a defensive machine. Such is the life of a defensive tackle.
But no matter how much fans notice the 6-foot, 260-pound junior, Bateman is certain to be noticed by his teammates. His impact on the Class 4A No. 1 Olympians has been immeasurable as they head into tonight’s sectional semifinal matchup with Connersville.
“I think I’ve learned the concept of being a team player, giving myself up for other people to make bigger plays than I would,” Bateman said. “I know I can give myself up to get someone in there to get more yards taken off of them.”
Bateman, who wears his hair long like one of his role models, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, broke into the lineup on last year’s regional championship team. He’s been a fixture on the defensive line this season, ranking second on the team with 55 tackles and two sacks and first with three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
He said he has worked hard to become a better run defender.
“I think I can maneuver people in ways that I want to move them,” Bateman said.
With a bench press of 320 and a squat of more than 500, Bateman is perhaps the strongest player on the team.
“He did a great job in the offseason in the weight room,” Gaddis said. “He really got stronger, got faster; and right now, when he goes, he’s a pretty hard kid to block. He’s tremendously strong. He’s probably the strongest guy on our team, as far as the squat rack and upper body combined. He has good technique, and he’s worked hard at becoming a lot better player.”
Bateman, who runs a 5.08 40-yard dash, hopes to play football in college.
“That would be pretty amazing,” Bateman said.
Recruiting of high school players typically doesn’t pick up until after a player’s junior season, but Gaddis said Bateman has potential.
“We’ll see after next year,” Gaddis said. “He has a lot more high school to play before that.”
And during that time, Bateman is focused on helping East make a couple more deep playoff advances, beginning tonight.
“I think our concern is making a good run, playing week by week, win, survive and move on,” Bateman said.