March 8, 2014

Dillon Looking for Redemption in 2014





There are many story lines surrounding West Virginia safety K.J. Dillon entering the 2014 season.

A breakout player from two years ago, Dillon is looking to make his mark on the defense this upcoming year. He is playing from an adjusted position on the front end of the secondary and is with a new position coach in Joe DeForest, who tutored him from the spot in 2012.

When spring camp opened last week, Dillon found himself atop the SPUR position, providing him a strong launching point for spring ball.

But for Dillon, 2014 is not necessarily an opportunity to improve his stock from the field; it is a battle of redemption. Redemption from a health scare last season that nearly cost the talented defensive back not only his playing career, but also his life.

After recording four-total tackles against the Texas Longhorns on November 9, Dillon returned to his house in Morgantown with his mother and brother. With a difficult contest under his belt, the safety decided to lay down in his bed, trying to recover from a long day's work. But after a short span, Dillon realized something was terribly wrong.

"After the game I went home and laid down, and after 10 or 15 minutes my body just started to lock up," Dillon said. "I had full-body cramps, serious headaches, and I was throwing up everywhere. Just didn't feel good. I was in bad shape."

He yelled at his mother and brother for help. They quickly called 9-1-1 to get assistance for Dillon.

"They saw me in there screaming and everything, and they just called an ambulance," Dillon explained. "Thank god they were there, because who knows what would've happened if they weren't.

Dillon was rushed to the hospital, where the doctor diagnosed him with an extreme case of dehydration. Recent play, coupled with complications from his existing diabetes, took a toll on the talented athlete.

"I was in the hospital for about three or four days, and they just told me 'you are extremely dehydrated and your body just started to eat itself,'" he said. "Playing the whole game. 90-plus snaps with no water is like driving a car on the highway with no gas. I just passed out. When I woke up the next day, they just told me I was that close to dying. They told me that I have to take better care of my body, because I have diabetes."

Prior to that fateful night against Texas, Dillon had noticed something was changing. Entering the season around a strong 200 pounds, the safety had quickly dropped a significant amount of weight, clocking in at 179 pounds when the event occurred.

"Trying to make plays out of 179 pounds, that's pretty hard," Dillon joked.

And even after the event, the overall seriousness of his recent episode had not fully hit home. It was not until a doctor met with him shortly after waking up in the hospital that the impact came full-circle.

"At the time I didn't even think it was that serious, because I cramp after every game," he said. "But when they told me how serious it was, I was like 'dang.' It was close to having my football career over at such an early age. So that was a scare, but at first I didn't think it was that serious at all."

With two games remaining in the season, the medial staff for West Virginia pulled Dillon off the field in order to fully focus on his recovery. Since then, the safety has a retuned focus, not only on his game, but also on his personal health.

"Things have changed," Dillon said. "Just a better diet and taking care of myself with things I do off the field. I check my sugar levels more now and doing more things diabetic-wise that I should have been doing. Nothing drastic has changed, but everything's changing for the better."

Entering spring camp, Dillon is adamant that he has returned to 100-percent health, both on and off the field. After a long offseason of work, he is back to a comfortable playing weight of 210 pounds and, sitting atop the depth chart, is prepared to regain his status as a breakout defender.

But this time around, Dillon knows and can appreciate how quickly things can change.

"It was the scariest thing I've ever experienced," Dillon said. "I'm just trying to maintain my health and get my groove back. I'm glad that's behind me now and we can look towards the future."

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