Stephen Dalton not only had a successful athletic career at Cabrillo High School, he did some stellar work in the classroom as well.
The 2013 graduate in now focused on turning those past merits into a bright future.
Dalton said, during the final day of the Billy Vinnedge Kicking Academy summer camp Saturday, that he will attend the University of Wyoming in the fall and has a shot at punting for the Cowboys in the near future, at college football’s top level.
Dalton moved up to Cabrillo’s varsity football team as a sophomore place-kicker and was subsequently named to the All-League team for the Los Padres League that season. He also made the All-LPL team as a junior.
“I was on varsity as a sophomore so that really helped — you have to step up when you’re that young and everyone’s counting on you,” Dalton said. “I practiced the hardest my sophomore year because I felt I had to get good for everyone. I actually didn’t want to be punter but Coach (Don) Willis forced me to punt. And I thank him for that now because I couldn’t be where I am without him making me punt.”
Dalton said he’s spoken with members of the Wyoming coaching staff and they’ve expressed interest in him playing for the Cowboys as a walk-on with an opportunity to eventually earn a scholarship.
“I went (to Wyoming) for school, I wasn’t even going to play football,” he said. “But I was like, ‘I might as well try.’ I went into the office, talked to the coach, they said they needed a punter and I sent him my film. He liked my film and said, ‘I’ll give you a shot.’”
Dalton’s kicking coach Billy Vinnedge, who also kicked at Wyoming and for the San Diego Chargers in the NFL, said that’s his main priority as a coach, getting kids opportunities to kick in college.
“That’s the ultimate goal, to either walk on or earn a scholarship and continue to kick,” Vinnedge said. “Just to see these kids move on, that’s what we like to see.”
Dalton going to Vinnedge’s alma mater just makes the whole deal sweeter.
“The fact that Stephen’s going to Wyoming, that’s where I went, that’s pretty cool for me,” Vinnedge said. “He was helping me out at the camp because the kid knows how to kick like he knows the back of his hand. He has a great leg and a great shot as a walk-on to earn a scholarship in a year or two at Wyoming.”
Dave Christensen is Wyoming’s current coach, entering his fifth season. The Cowboys are 22-28 during Christensen’s tenure and are currently members of the Mountain West.
Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium is also a friendly place to kick with its high elevation. It claims to be the highest FBS football stadium in the country at 7,200 feet.
Dalton said he consistently had over a 4.0 grade-point average at Cabrillo and has already decided to major in Petroleum Engineering at Wyoming.
“It’s one of the top right-out-of-college jobs, pay-wise,” Dalton said. “Internships are easy to find and we know people. My dad used to work on oil rigs. It sounds really interesting to me. I’ve loved working on that type of stuff all my life. I did pretty well in school, I think I can do it.”
Dalton scored a 1,740 on his SAT.
But he knows if he plans on contributing to an FBS program (formerly Division I), he needs to improve as a punter. Dalton said he’s been working throughout the summer to not only sharpen his game but add power and strength to his leg.
“Typical summer day, I go to my grandpa’s and work construction with him for a couple hours,” Dalton said. “Get done, go to the gym, my old football coach went to Idaho State, he gave me a leg workout program so I can get my legs strong for punting.
“I do a lot of core and one-legged squats and stuff. Then I go and punt and I can barely feel my legs, but I try to punt at least two or three times a week, and maybe kick field goals once or twice.”
Dalton said the role of a kicker, inside the team environment, was really quite interesting during his high school days.
“During my sophomore year my name to everyone on the team was ‘Kicker Boy,’” Dalton said. “I don’t even know if half the people on the team knew my name. So that’s just the rep you get and you have to live with it. You just laugh it off. It doesn’t bother you. They get it: You need them and they need you.”
But Dalton did hit the field playing a different position his senior year.
“No matter what, people are going to call you kicker and give you (stuff),” he said. “It’s harder than most people think. I played a little bit of corner this year too so I got away from that. They’re like ‘Ok, you played a real position.’ They cut me some slack.”
But that’s all in the past. At this point, Dalton is focused on doing well in the classroom at Wyoming and eventually suiting up for some game-action with the ‘Pokes.
“I’ll be fighting for a spot for sure,” he said. “I don’t think this year, but maybe next year I’ll make the traveling team and try to see the field. I’m not sure if they’ll red-shirt me or not. I’m just going to practice hard and see what happens."