Dane Vernor, #44 Senior Linebacker, 5’11 – 185 pounds

One of the two senior captains for the 2019 Ennis Lions is Dane Vernon, also known as “Great Dane.” He is a hard-working 18-year-old young man who has excelled in sports all his life.

He has been a dominating football player since kindergarten and thoroughly enjoyed baseball (even T-ball) every year up until he became a freshman at Ennis High School. He began his successful career in track and field in the seventh grade and, as a junior, he was crowned the 5A Regional discus champion in January of last season.

It is easy to ascertain that this talented student is much more than an average athletic young man, and has big goals set before himself for the future.

In fact, Dane has been a determined and goal-oriented person who knew where he wanted to go and how to get there since the age of five.

His father, Danny Vernor, has encouraged his son to be a part of the United States armed forces in some capacity, especially since Dane has been so athletic and seems to be the perfect fit. His dad recognized some of his son’s gifts and realized that he might be a match for the U.S. Naval Academy.

“My dad steered me in that direction since I was about five years old, Dane says, "He calls it brainwashing, but I call it ‘steering.’”

Either way, his dream of going to the academy seems to be coming true, as last month Dane committed, contingent upon appointment, to the United States Naval Academy track and field program in Annapolis, Maryland.

“I am so proud of Dane and happy for him and his family,” said Ennis head football coach Sam Harrell. “To be chosen for this opportunity at the Naval Academy is a huge deal. In my years at EHS, I think Dane is just the second of our athletes to get that special opportunity, and he is very deserving because he has worked hard for many years,” Harrell continued. “I can’t think of a better person I would want battling for our country than this great young man.”   

Another Lions Coach, defensive coordinator Paul Willingham comments, “Dane has always been a hard-working young man, both academically and athletically. What a work ethic this guy brings to the team, and his leadership skills are very admirable. He set a goal early in his young life, and it’s come to fruition. He deserves this excellent opportunity.”

Dane explains that he will be on a four-year scholarship program.

“It is so expensive to put a midshipman through their military and educational programs, that the degree must be obtained in four years so the new officer can head out and start serving his or her country immediately," Dane says.

“After my visit to Annapolis in October,” he adds, “I was enlightened about how the Naval Academy hones officers for the U.S. Navy, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. As far as my major, I will visit with the Naval Academy counselors and determine a course degree plan which is best for the Navy and for me. Contrary to popular belief, one can major in just about anything there.”

Upon recently hearing the good news, Dane was joined by his parents Kim and Danny Vernor, and his coaches and teammates in celebration.

Dane was gracious in saying, “Huge thanks to everyone who supported me on my journey to the U.S. Naval Academy. I could not be more excited about this opportunity to serve my country and compete while doing it.”

In the future, Dane will participate in the discus, shot and hammer throw for the Midshipmen program.

Dane and his family are very proud of their ancestors’ military service to the United States. He humbly explained that his paternal grandfather served in the Navy and was on a destroyer during the Korean War. He relayed that his maternal grandfather served in the Army and was stationed at White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico in the 50s.

When asked why Dane picked track and field over football, he answers, “I let Navy choose that for me. I decided to go with whichever program pulled for me the hardest when I took an unofficial visit there in July of this year. Track Coach Campbell really made me feel wanted, and he will be my direct contact and coach in the area of throwing the hammer, the shot put and the discus. My gut feeling was confirmed when I took my official visit there in October. It just feels right.”

In Dane’s own words, “To be an Ennis Lion means you are successful. And a person is successful because you have worked for it. Then the success is measured because you have earned it. We regularly beat teams more talented than us, but we often win because nobody outworks the Lions.”

He continues his story, “I was a good example of that kind of grit and determination at the UIL State track meet in January of 2019. I was only 183 pounds, and the other eight discus throwers in our class averaged over 250 – 260 pounds each. I made it that far in the contest because I had outworked my regional competitors. I have set a goal for myself, to return to State again in January 2020, and this time I am determined to win it all.”

Dane continues, “I have always loved all kind of sports. I’m going to Navy based on my track and field skills. However, it is going to be terribly hard to give up playing football. I have poured so much of my time and soul into the sport, that it will feel bizarre not to be on the gridiron. I will definitely suffer from withdrawals from football next year.”

But for the meantime, Lion football captain Dane is getting psyched for Friday’s Class 5A Division II Region II semi-finals (the third round) set for 1 p.m. at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.  

Dane says, “To the Ennis Lions, this is the greatest time of the year. However, we still adhere to Coach Harrell’s adage of ‘Win the Day’. We prepare every single day, but now we’re even more focused than ever, and that’s just human nature. Also, we appreciate the tremendous job by our junior varsity squad of practicing with us and giving us a look for the other team’s offensive and defensive styles. That really makes a huge difference in the playoffs.

“And we can’t tell you how much we love Coach Harrell”, declares Dane. “To overcome Multiple Sclerosis and to come back to coach us; there’s not enough words to express how much he means to us. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be able to play for Sam Harrell. Not only is he a tremendous head coach, but he loves us and cares for us.”

Dane continues, “Of course, Coach Harrell is my favorite football coach of all my years in football. But in addition, he is the smartest coach in the history of high school football in Texas – period!”

As Dane’s high school football career is coming to a close soon, he can almost visualize the Lions winning the State 5A championship.

“We have as good of a chance as any team in our classification. We are humble but confident in ourselves. Hopefully, the ball bounces our way throughout the playoffs. I think what I’ll miss most about my high school days will be playing football for a community (like Ennis) who backs us without fail.”

Dyllan Santos, #2 Senior Running Back, 5’7” - 170 pounds

The other senior football captain for the Lions is a born and bred Ennis guy with a passion for the game and a desire to someday play for his early years’ coaching idol – Sam Harrell.

A little boy in Ennis often dreams of being an Ennis Lion football player one day in high school. Dyllan Santos, an 18-year-old senior now playing on his “dream team,” is enjoying the reality of all his hard work and effort over the years.  

Santos has been a three-year starting varsity player – his sophomore year as a slot receiver (wide receiver); his junior year as quarterback, and his senior year as both a receiver again, and most recently, a solid running back for the Lions.

The 2019 football program lists Santos as a 5’7”, 170-pound wide receiver, but coaches would agree that this young man is a unique utility player who is always willing to step-up and fill in wherever the team needs him.

Santos is rather small in stature, but he plays with the biggest of hearts. In other words, he plays a lot bigger than he looks.

When asked what word(s) describe himself as a football player, Santos says, “I have always been a team player. I am willing to play where I can be best used – whatever the position. By being flexible, I can help my team accomplish even more.”   

Santos added, “In a scale of 1 to 10, regarding how important football is to me, I would say – beyond a 10! That’s just how much I love this game!”

As a youngster, around 6 or 7 years old, Santos began his football career in the pee wee leagues in Ennis, and he’s never stopped doing what he loves best.

In fact, he remembers being a ball boy for Coach Sam Harrell when he was the head coach for Ennis years ago.

He explains, “It is truly an amazing thing to me, that from the time I’ve known coach as a ball boy for the varsity team to today, I am somehow getting to play for one of the best high school football coaches in Texas.”

Santos continues, “I’ve always looked up to Coach Harrell, and it is a real privilege to be playing for him as a Lion.”

This talented young man has already been approached by a few universities regarding possible scholarships to play college ball next year. However, he feels once the season and playoffs are over, he will hopefully get even more programs interested in him and what he offers to the game of football.

The first member of his own family to get a full degree from college is his sister Victoria Santos, who recently graduated from Texas A&M.

Another of his sisters, Alexandria Santos, just completed her schooling to be a dental hygienist. Now, the younger Santos says that he is looking forward to his time to enjoy the college experience. He hasn’t decided on a major yet, so he is leaving his options open at the present time.

As the Lions fine-tune their practices this week in their third week of the playoffs, Santos confesses, “We are anxious to play Frisco High School this Friday afternoon at The Star, as their team is ranked No. 4 in our state classification, and Ennis is listed as No. 8. This week we are focusing on bringing the highest level of energy possible, more than the crowds have seen this year. We are hoping for a great outcome at this high level of competition.”   

In conclusion, Santos says, “Teamwork is the key for the Lions this week. The coaches are working hard to get us ready for battle.”

“Dyllan is the epitome of a team player," Coach Harrell says, "This season he gave up his spot as starting QB when junior Collin Drake moved in from another city in order to help the team in other positions – he does whatever he can to make us better. He plays slot, running back, blocks for others, etc. He is great to have on our team, and he truly loves being an Ennis Lion!”