“We didn’t know what we’d get with him,” Shackleford recalled. “He signed the day before camp started.”
So, Coach, how long did it take Charles Dillon to win you over?
“The first day,” Shackleford said with a smile. “It was obvious.”
Dillon caught three touchdown passes in Spokane’s only exhibition game, and he’s been a key part of the Shock’s explosive offense all year. In his first season of pro football -- if “pro” includes arenafootball2, where players are paid just $200 a game, with a $50 bonus per win -- Dillon has helped the Shock build up an 18-1 record heading into Saturday night’s af2 title game in Las Vegas.
“I’m glad I came up here,” Dillon said. “It’s been a great experience. Being on a winning team makes it just that much more fun.”
WSU posted 6-6 and 5-7 records after Dillon joined the Cougars in 2006 following two years as a junior college football and basketball standout at Ventura (Calif.) College. A 6-foot-1 combo guard in basketball, Dillon considered playing two sports at WSU.
“My first love is still basketball probably,” Dillon says. “Whenever I get a chance, I’m always shooting around.”
Dillon was Spokane’s third-leading receiver in the regular season with 75 catches and 868 receiving yards, and he tied for second with 18 touchdown catches. In three playoff games, Dillon has grabbed 12 passes for 164 yards. He leads the Shock in the playoffs with 13.7 yards per reception, and he’s tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches.
“He’s a great receiver,” Shock quarterback Nick Davila said. “He’s one of those guys that can get yards after the catch. I love playing with him.”
The Shock first pursued Dillon after he finished up at WSU in 2007, but Dillon signed with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent. He was released after pulling a hamstring in training camp last year, and when no NFL teams came calling this year, he jumped at the chance to join the Shock.
“It didn’t matter how much you’re getting paid or anything, I just wanted to play,” Dillon said.
The Shock was ranked No. 1 in the af2 coaches poll all season (the poll ended after the regular season). Spokane’s opponent Saturday in the Orleans Arena is second-ranked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pa.). The Pioneers are 16-3, and they lost a 56-52 thriller at Spokane last month in the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
“They’ve got a really good offense, and I feel they’ve got a pretty good defense, too,” Dillon said.
Not that Dillon has nothing but bouquets to throw at the Pioneers.
“I felt like they were cocky and thought they were going to come in and just blow us away,” Dillon said.
Dillon said he’s “pretty sure the guys will have a great time and a good experience” in Las Vegas, but he makes it clear that the bright lights won’t be a distraction for him. For one thing, scouts from the new United Football League will be on hand, and Dillon said he’d be willing to sign with a UFL team as he continues to chase his childhood dream of playing in the NFL.
“This is a business trip for me,” Dillon said. “I don’t gamble, anyway. My main focus is to bring back that ring.”