After just three career starts throughout his first two collegiate seasons, junior safety and linebacker K.J. Dillon has undeniably caught the attention of his coaches with his play during spring practice.
In fact, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen recently went as far as tagging Dillon as the one player who has stood out the most on the defensive side of the ball through 11 total practices this spring.
“He has been very disruptive on defense and more disciplined,” Holgorsen said Saturday at WVU’s open spring practice in Charleston. “He has always been disruptive on defense, but sometimes he was disruptive for himself or me (more) than he has (been for) opposing defenses. Now he is more disciplined, lining up better, staying on his feet and making more plays on defense, as well.”
Dillon has recorded 48 tackles, including six pass breakups, three TFLs and a forced fumble in fairly limited action as a backup safety the last two seasons, but has spent a lot of time playing the SPUR linebacker position instead this spring.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 207 lbs, the Apopka, Fla., native has the body type and athleticism to play almost anywhere on the field. Dillon was a state track champion in Florida and led his high school football team in receiving as a senior in addition to consistently prowling in the secondary on the other side of the ball.
But Dillon is also living, breathing evidence that even the most fit, physical athletes aren’t completely invincible.
Dillon is diabetic. And less than five months ago, just hours after turning in one of his best college football performances of his young life in an overtime loss to Texas, Dillon found himself in an intensive care unit for multiple days due to dehydration, which he is permanently at an increased risk for because of his condition.
“It was scary, but you had to get through it,” Dillon said at Saturday’s practice. “It was pretty scary, but it’s over now, so I don’t really think about it anymore. A lot of water, a lot of hydration, a lot of Gatorade – you know, maintain a good balance of each.”
Now, Dillon is officially back and potentially better than ever. His versatility also guarantees he’ll more than likely be a pretty important piece within the new scheme defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has implemented recently.
Ultimately, Dillon himself credits his resurgent comeback to the support he has gotten along with the work he has put in the offseason, both mentally and physically.
“It’s been a great offseason for me,” Dillon said. “I’ve bounced back and have been getting better every day. I’ve been getting my body and mind together.”