HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana had three defensive players in the vicinity converging on McNeese State’s David Bush when a blur emerged.
The Cowboys, already holding a two-touchdown lead, were driving into Lions territory when senior free safety Josh Dakin closed on the play with a vengeance, one that resulted in some collateral damage.
Not only had Dakin taken down Bush but the ferocity of his hit — one in which he led with his right shoulder — floored 305-pound teammate Tupou Aleamotua and knocked him out for the remainder of the game.
“I felt bad about that,” Dakin said of Aleamotua, who received a concussion on the play. “Sometimes that happens. I think he understands the way I play.”
His teammates playfully refer to him as the “Dakinator” — a term of endearment for Dakin’s approach to the game he plays with such passion and in most cases, blatant disregard for his the 6-foot-1, 195-pound body.
“He’s so violent,” SLU coach Ron Roberts said.
Dakin is revered in his team’s locker room; a role model the coaching staff annually selects for other players to emulate and a player the opposition has to account for whether on defense or special teams.
“He’s the guy we’ll flip on a camera when we talk to other guys about effort and tenacity,” Roberts said. “It’s undeniable the things he does.”
For a player who’s never started a game, Dakin’s carved out an obvious niche during a 43-game career that’s been distinguished by his hustle, determination and unselfish play during SLU’s climb to top the Southland Conference the past two seasons.
When the No. 21 Lions (3-2, 2-1 SLC) host Stephen F. Austin (1-5, 1-3) for homecoming at 7 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium, expect to see Dakin making his usual impact on the Lions kickoff and punt coverage teams and in the secondary.
“He’s the guy that whatever you need him to do on the field, he’ll do it,” SLU defensive back Ryan Sigers said. “He’s the most unselfish player I’ve played with in all my years of football. I look to him as a leader.”
Dakin was initially going to grayshirt or delay his entry into school by a semester and still been eligible to be a part of the program for five years.
When Roberts recruited Dakin, he saw a 150-pound, tough-as-nails player that twice earned All-District 7-5A honors at Northshore High in Slidell where he registered 14 interceptions over his final three seasons.
Roberts, noticing a lack of numbers on his roster heading into preseason camp, scrapped those plans and made Dakin a part of the 2012 team.
Dakin’s presence and influence were noticeable, beginning with his willingness to play special teams until something opened in the secondary.
“Most of the guys I came in with redshirted and have another year, so it’s bittersweet,” Dakin said. “I feel good about being able to contribute to the team all four years.”
Dakin played in double-digit games in each of his first three seasons, becoming a valuable member of SLU’s special teams where he gained the attention of opposing teams who at times tried unsuccessfully to block him.
With each passing season Dakin’s production improved, doubling his number of tackles (15 to 36) from his freshman to junior years.
Of Dakin’s total a year ago, 25 were solo tackles with a career-high five coming in the Lions’ 21-17 NCAA playoff loss at Sam Houston State.
Dakin has overcome an injury this season that cost him two games to register seven tackles and an interception — the second of his career — from his back-up free safety position.
“He’s a throwback to old-school football,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy that’s such a pleasure to coach.
“You’re going to get everything out of him that he has.”