HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — David Dagrin figured he’d be a part of a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship team when he came to Alabama A&M five years ago.
The Bulldogs had become a fixture in the title game since becoming eligible in 2000. The Bulldogs played in the championship game six times in their first 12 years in the league, winning it all in 2006 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
A&M’s last appearance in the title game was 2011 when it blew a 15-point lead and lost to Grambling 16-15. Despite the disappointing loss, Dagrin, who redshirted that season, believed the Bulldogs would find a way to get back to win a title before his career was over.
Unfortunately, A&M hasn’t gotten back to the title game — and last week’s 27-24 overtime loss to then-winless Mississippi Valley State ended Dagrin’s chances of winning a ring.
“I thought we’d win at least one championship,” said Dagrin, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound fifth-year senior from Miami. “We were so close to winning it my freshman year I could taste it. The future was bright for us. I just knew we were going to win one with the talent we had. I knew I was going to leave here with a ring.”
While Dagrin won’t walk away with a ring, he will walk away with a degree in construction management and a healthy dose of respect from A&M’s coaching staff.
“David is a guy that has it all together,” A&M coach James Spady said. “He understands where he’s going in life. I told my wife last year I had a man-crush on him. He’s a leader for us. He was a captain last year. He’s a productive player for us.
“His work ethic is off the charts. He’s a very smart guy and a heady football player. I’m a big fan.”
Spady should be, with the way Dagrin has progressed.
Despite having four position coaches in five years, Dagrin, who can play both defensive end positions, is having a career year. He has been one of the few bright spots on an A&M defense that ranks near the bottom in three of the four major statistical categories in the SWAC.
“He’s been solid,” said A&M defensive coordinator Reggie Johnson, who also coaches the defensive ends. “He’s been in tough games and he knows what it takes to compete. David has been a positive player for us. He’s been a sponge on the field. He soaks up everything you tell him. His work ethic is his biggest attribute.
“He’s a bright guy. He works hard on the field and in the classroom. He’s playing well for us. When you weather all the storms he’s been through in terms of having four different position coaches and two head coaches and to still find a way to be successful ... that says something about his character.”
The Bulldogs are sixth in the league in scoring defense (36.2), last in total yards allowed (478.1), ninth in rushing yards allowed (209.8) and eighth in passing yards allowed (268.4).
As a result, Dagrin and company will be tested Saturday when A&M (2-6, 2-4) visits Southern (5-4, 5-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
“We can line up against anyone and play,” said Dagrin, who is second on the team in tackles (35) and leads the team in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (5). “We just have to make plays. We just can’t miss the layups.”
A&M has indeed missed a lot of layups this season. It will be even more important Saturday not to miss any against Southern — particularly with the Bulldogs short-handed.
A&M will be without inside linebacker Bryan Brower and defensive tackle Anthony Lanier. Brower, who is third in the league in tackles with 76, suffered a broken bone in his ankle against Valley and was lost for the season. Lanier has been hampered by a nagging foot injury.
As for Dagrin, with three games left in his career, he knows the end is near.
“The clock is winding down,” he said. “It’s been tough. It’s been frustrating knowing the kind of team we’ve had. But it’s been a great experience. It’s been what I thought it would be and more. I don’t regret anything.
“I’ve bonded with my coaches and teammates. I’ve grown as an individual and as a young man. If I had to do it over again, I would.”