When the marching band arrives, its members strut in unison up the bleachers. The dance continues until the entire squad — the tuba players, trumpeters, drumline — has reached its assigned seat.
When the football team invades the field, it runs through an inflatable tunnel, a paper banner and a cloud of smoke. Fireworks, shot off from a neighboring backyard, adds an extra touch of intimidation.
Dillon High School football can close — see five state championships in six years — but the program doesn’t mind making an entrance, either. The Wildcats are loud and proud.
“Playing here, it’s great,” said senior defensive end Shamar McCollum. “The fans, the atmosphere, just everything about here. The workouts. Just playing here I think is going to get me ready for the next level.”
McCollum is this year’s main attraction at Dillon Memorial Stadium. He’s 6-foot-4, 230 pounds with numbers like 40 (tackles for loss as a junior) and 16 (offers from Division I schools).
McCollum on July 11 announced his commitment to Wake Forest. The Demon Deacon coaches, he said, showed him a lot of love. There’s also a chance, he said, to play right away. Additionally, he was sold on the opportunity to play in the ACC and “turn a small program around.”
McCollum ranks No. 4 among the state of South Carolina’s best players, according to the 247Sports Composite ratings. The top three — Anderson’s Zacch Pickens, Blythewood’s Cam Smith and Rock Hill’s Jamario Holley — are pledged to USC. McCollum hasn’t received an offer from Carolina or Clemson.
“They liked him,” said Dillon coach Jackie Hayes. “USC liked him. Clemson liked him. But they never pulled the trigger on him. He had to make a decision, and he did it.”
The state’s top four players in the 2018 class, according to 247Sports Composite, were Derion Kendrick (Clemson signee), Josh Belk (Clemson, then transferred to USC), Channing Tindall (Georgia over USC) and Dakereon Joyner (USC). In 2017, the state’s top six players either signed at USC or Clemson.
Perhaps the minimal buzz from the in-state programs gives McCollum an under-the-radar profile. Fireworks don’t follow him everywhere.
“It’s really kind of funny to me how he is a secret all over the state,” said Dillon defensive coordinator Marty McIntyre, “because he’s been to combines all over the country and just had tremendous performances against four-stars and five-stars all over the nation.
“We kind of know who he is, so if we can keep him a secret a little bit, that’s good.”
McCollum, given three stars by 247Sports, is a four-star prospect on Rivals.com.
“I’m No. 2 on Rivals,” he told a reporter with a grin, noting the site’s placement of McCollum only behind Pickens.
McCollum, who grew up a Clemson fan, is plenty satisfied with his recruitment. He’s off to Wake, a developing program under Dave Clawson with bowl wins in 2016 and 2017. Also, McCollum said, “I feel like my talents are going to show wherever I go.”
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will get him soon, but McCollum’s playing football in South Carolina for a few more months. If you miss him, you’ve missed someone with the “best motor of anybody I’ve coached,” Hayes said. “And I’ve been the head coach here 27 years.”
On Aug. 31, to help begin Dillon’s 40-0 rout of Latta, McCollum made his presence felt on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Within a blink of Latta running back Chandler Nolan taking a handoff, McCollum was smothering Nolan for a loss.
Later, McCollum batted down a pass and collected a sack.
“He can get off the ball, he’s got a motor,” Hayes said. “He tries to make every single play.
“But I think the thing that separates him from all the players we’ve got is his potential is unlimited with that frame.”
McCollum is a tweener of sorts. Use him as an outsider linebacker and watch him cover. Use him as a standup defensive end and watch him race to the backfield.
“We moved him at the end of the year last year to linebacker just to broaden his skills and his skill set,” McIntyre said. “He’s just accepted coaching and has done what we’ve asked him to do.
“He plays so dang fast, it just causes people lots of problems.”
Those who recognize him, anyway.
“I think he can play with anybody,” Hayes said. “I think he can play for anybody.”