Listed at 5-feet, 8-inches tall, Southern Wayne’s Dylan Denning has strived to live by the motto: “life isn’t about what obstacles stand in your way, it’s about how you respond to get through them.”
On Tuesday, May 7, Denning said he realized a dream as he signed his national letter of intent to play football at Methodist University and join the Monarch family.
Denning started out as a wide-eyed seventh-grader coming out to the Southern Wayne football workouts. With confidence one day, he said he told coach Ronnie McClary Jr., “I want to play college football.”
McClary said he didn’t shut him down immediately, but he did have his doubts simply because of Denning’s size and speed. Denning went straight to work and, as a sophomore, was moved up to the varsity football team.
“His work ethic was unmatched,” McClary said. “Even though he’s a smaller guy, he never quit and even when he got beat a few times, he just kept working at his craft. You don’t see that in everyone.”
“I was just determined to get better,” Denning said. “Football is just like life, it’s not about what obstacles stand in your way, it’s about how you respond to get through them.”
Denning has been a leader since he first stepped in as a varsity player and McClary raves about him as a student-athlete saying, “when we need a leader, it’s always him. ... When he talks, guys listen and he handles his job in the classroom just as well as he does on the field. His grades along with his drive make him the leader that we need. He’s the tone-setter for our program.”
Denning says he gets his work ethic and his drive from his family and mostly from his dad, Dwayne Denning.
“My dad is my biggest supporter, my family is really close and they are always pushing me,” Dylan Denning said. “I have six brothers and four stepbrothers and they all push me to want to be better and to never settle. My dad has been my coach since I was 3, but he’s also like a friend to me. He knows me and when I have times that I get down on myself, he knows how to work me through that insecurity and that forces me to respond to the challenge instead of run away from it. That’s why I go as hard as I do.”
Denning plans to major in physical education and one day become a physical education teacher and football coach.
“I don’t really know where I want to go to do that,” he said, “but I’m just going to go with the flow, just go wherever the wind is going to take me.”
Denning chose Methodist University because, he said, “it felt like a family. I really had a similar feeling with the coaching staff at Methodist and Southern Wayne. It seemed like they actually cared about their athletes just like they do here.”
“Also, when I visited, I was blown away by the campus because it’s a DIII school so my expectations weren’t that high, but the campus was so nice, that also helped hook me in,” he added.
“Coming from Southern Wayne, you always hear how we’re subpar but I enjoyed that and I thrived off of that because it made me want to go harder. My experience here has molded me into a mentally and physically stronger person. I’m not built to run away from adversity, I’m ready to face it as it comes,” Denning said.
“I remember being with my group of friends as I saw other seniors sign last year and we told ourselves that was going to be us next year,” he added. “It’s next year and it’s just a surreal feeling knowing it actually happened. I hope every dude in the locker room looks at me and feels inspired because I’m doing exactly what I said I was going to do and if I can do it, then I’m 100 percent confident they can, too.”