The Spokane Shock had a number of quality receivers, including returning standouts Raul Vijil, Andy Olson and Patrick Bugg, entering training camp in March. Highly touted Jason Rivers, the all-time receptions leader at Hawaii, Texas’ Billy Pittman and intriguing 6-foot-7 prospect Markee White also were on the roster.
And Charles Dillon.
Dillon signed the day camp opened, but he was hardly an afterthought, having caught 52 passes for Washington State in 2006-07. Still, arenafootball2 teams often carry five receivers and typically suit up four on game day.
Dillon understood the arithmetic of making a roster. He joined the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent but was let go during 2008 training camp after pulling his groin.
“I didn’t know the process or what was going to happen,” Dillon said. “I’m coming to Spokane thinking, ‘I’m for sure on the team,’ but when I got here I realized it was, ‘Man, I have to go through this again and I have to make the team.’ But I’ve always been able to compete and give my all.”
Three days into camp, Dillon was essentially penciled in as a starter. A week later, he had three touchdown receptions in an exhibition win over Arkansas. Three days later, Pittman was traded. Three days after that, Rivers was released.
“He just came out and blew us away,” Shock coach Adam Shackleford said. “When you’re a rookie and catch everything and make the starting lineup in the first three, four days, you’re going to fit in quickly.”
Dillon fit in quickly because he grasped the af2 game quickly. He’s made it look easy at times, but it’s not a simple transition for talented collegiate players.
“When he gets the ball, he makes plays,” quarterback Nick Davila said. “He can take a hitch to the house, he can make great catches in traffic. I’m glad I got the experience of playing with him, Raul, Andy, Bugg and White. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Watching Vijil and Olson run routes sped up Dillon’s af2 learning curve.
“They told me I caught on pretty quickly,” Dillon said. “I was just so happy to be playing again. I said, ‘No way was I going to let it (getting released) happen again.’ ”
Besides, Dillon is used to crowded positions. At WSU, he arrived after two years at Ventura College to a receiving unit featuring Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus and Brandon Gibson.
“I had to learn the offense and take a back seat and keep working hard at practice,” Dillon said. “Hill and Bump got hurt late in the season and I got to start. That was a big confidence builder and I rolled that over to my senior year and had a pretty good season.”
The Shock contacted Dillon, but he anticipated getting an NFL opportunity. The Colts called shortly after the draft and he was having a good camp before his injury. He returned home to Oxnard, Calif., to spend time with his infant son, work construction with his dad and uncle and referee basketball games.
Dillon said he “did get a little down on myself” after being released by Indianapolis and didn’t work out “quite as hard as I should have.” Spokane maintained interest and Dillon accepted an offer to come to camp, not ready to abandon his NFL dreams.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “Of course I want to be at a higher level, but this is where I’m at. I need to work hard, do my best and win a championship for the Shock.”
Dillon averages a team-best 15 yards per catch and his 12 touchdowns rank second to Vijil’s 14. Along with Olson’s team-high 114 yards per game, Shock opponents are forced to deal with multiple receiving threats.
“He has the ability as a big guy to make the first (defender) miss and to run over the second guy,” Shackleford said of the 6-1, 190-pound Dillon. “He has a lot of yards after the catch. It’s not really being elusive; it’s being tough.”
In addition to the yards and touchdowns, Dillon is hard to miss on the field. He got his first tattoo at age 18, looked around and thought “my arms are too plain. I need some more.” Ink covers a good portion of his arms, chest and back.
“The first one was a Cougar head, since I was going to WSU,” he said.
He plans on freshening up his Mohawk for Saturday’s home game against Central Valley.
“I had ‘Shock’ (cut out) on one side and ‘Mom’ on the other (for the May 9th game against Boise),” he said. “It was the day before Mother’s Day, so it was for all the moms.”
He pulled a Sharpie from his sock and autographed the football after scoring a touchdown.
“The ref said, ‘Don’t bring that out again,’ ” said Dillon, who is waging spirited battles with Davila for video-game supremacy. “I was thinking I was going to get fined, but luckily I didn’t. I’m trying to think of something new for this week.”
No surprise there.
“He’s kind of a jokester, but he knows when to be serious,” Shackleford said. “He’s a very impressive football player.”
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