High School Sports

Gulfport football star chooses the military route

Gulfport linebacker Karlos Dillard.
Gulfport linebacker Karlos Dillard. amccoy@sunherald.com file

For the fourth time in the last two years, a Coast high school football star has chosen to attend one of the nation’s elite military academies.

Gulfport senior linebacker Karlos Dillard announced Monday that he has decided to verbally commit to the Air Force Academy and shut down his recruitment.

He actually decided to commit to the Air Force over the weekend, but waited until head coach Troy Calhoun and assistant Nick Toth visited Dillard at his house on Monday.

“I told them, ‘I’m ready to be a Falcon,” Dillard said.

Dillard said that the two coaches were “shocked” and that Toth jumped up and down after receiving the news.

“I’m excited. My emotions are everywhere,” Dillard said. “I’m happy for myself and I thank God for putting me in the position to make the right decision. They stood by me through everything I have to repay them for that. I’m really excited right now.”

St. Martin quarterback Wayne Overman and St. Stanislaus receiver Corbin Blanchard both signed with Air Force last year. Long Beach defensive lineman Jarius Warren inked with the Naval Academy in the same class.

With plans to study engineering, Dillard chose the Air Force over offers from schools like Army, Princeton, Jackson State, Nicholls, Northwestern State, Alcorn State and Cornell.

The connection with Overman helped point Dillard toward the Air Force Academy.

“Me and him trained with (former Southern Miss football player) C.J. Bailey and we became really close,” Dillard said. “He’s the one who picked up my interest. He only had good things to say. He told me it’ll be hard, but it’ll be worth it. I trust him a lot. I really looked into it because of him.”

Dillard wasn’t fully convinced that the Air Force was the right move for him until he made an official visit to the Colorado Springs campus.

“I never really saw myself going to a service academy until I took the official visit,” Dillard said. “Once I took my visit, it was nothing like I thought it would be. It was the complete opposite. Colorado Springs is full of a lot of nice people. I see myself going there and being around the same people. I’ll have great opportunities once I graduate. I’ll not only be set up, but my family will also be in a good spot.”

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Dillard said his parents have long hoped that he would choose the Air Force.

“They kind of wanted me to go there from the jump,” he said. “They really like the benefits during and after I graduate. They wanted me to get into an atmosphere where I could build characteristics I need to prosper in life. They liked it just as much as I did. We’re all on the same page.”

If Dillard doesn’t reach his dream of playing in the NFL, he will have a five-year commitment to the Air Force at the end of his college career.

“I’m not sure where that will be, but I won’t be deployed,” he said. “It’ll be a job in engineering or in the office I could be coaching. I’ll just have to see.”

Dillard, who has a 3.6 GPA, was a member of the Sun Herald All-South Mississippi Team as a junior and senior. He registered 135 tackles during his final season with the Admirals.