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Riverside Military junior Shad Dabney matches intellect with football skill in racking up college offers
Gainesville native has offers from Ivy League schools, Army and Arizona State to continue his football career
Shad Dabney
Riverside Military's Shad Dabney runs with the ball against Lakeview Academy during the 2019 game in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Riverside Military Academy’s Shad Dabney has plenty of options when it comes to choosing a college, and he’s keeping all of them open. 

Dabney has been the subject of plenty of recruitment buzz over the last year and a half, but in the past week, things have really started to heat up. He already had seven offers to play football at the next level, but since March 19, Dabney has received additional invitations to take his talents to seven more schools, bringing the total to 14 choices and counting. 

“Honestly it’s a blessing,” he said. “It just shows me that hard work really does pay off.”

And while many athletes pick up a high volume of collegiate opportunities, Dabney’s variety of options makes his situation a bit more unique. 

From Power 5 Arizona State, to military academy West Point to the Ivy League’s Yale and Princeton, everyone seems to want a piece of Dabney, which comes as no surprise to Eagles head football coach Nick Garrett. According to Garrett, Dabney is as well-rounded of a high school athlete there is, making him a viable target for all kinds of college programs. 

“I think a lot of people just see Shad Dabney the athlete, and he is a great athlete,” Garrett said. “But the bigger picture, and the substance that makes up Shad Dabney, is he’s very cerebral. He’s very intellectual. He’s insanely intelligent. That’s why he competes in the classroom with a 4.0. He’s a leader here in classes, in the hallways. He’s a leader in the community.”

Dabney has a reputation for treating his education as seriously as his athletics, a value instilled in him by his mother from a young age. His ability in the classroom combined with his athletic prowess is what put him on the radar of the country’s top academic higher learning institutions. 

His versatility as a person allows him to cast a wide net while searching for potential landing spots. His versatility as a player has helped as well. 

Dabney plays in all three phases of the game, and college coaches around the country have envisioned a number of different roles for him. 

“A lot of coaches are offering me as an athlete,” he said. “A lot are offering as a DB and a lot are offering as a receiver. I just think my versatility and my abilities on the field on offense, defense, special teams, that’s caught a lot of people’s eyes.”

Dabney’s options have steadily widened over the course of the recruitment process. Narrowing those options down and making a decision comes next. 

The choice will not be an easy one, but Dabney has a list of criteria to help him make it. Academics will be near the top, as to Dabney, “education is everything.” Finding a program that is a good fit will also be important — even if that means moving away from a Power 5 school in favor of something smaller where he feels more at home.

“I have big offers, but I don’t really get caught up in what conference they’re in,” he said. “FBS Division I football is FBS Division I football however you want to look at it.”

And while he hasn’t quite figured out the where of his next step, he’s made up his mind on the when. 

Dabney plans on choosing a school by December and graduating early from Riverside Military to enroll in college in spring. Accumulating the necessary credits to graduate while also balancing the three sports he competes in for the Eagles has been a challenge, but nothing he hasn’t been capable of handling. 

“I want to go early to get stronger, faster, bigger and play as a true freshman, like a lot of these schools are telling me I can,” he said. “I just want to go live my dream to play college football at the next level.”

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