Stanley Smith remembers it like it happened yesterday.
In the heat of a Louisiana Class 2A state semifinal game, dual-threat quarterback sensation Kobe Dillon had enough. Ferriday High School — in the midst of one of its best seasons in recent memory — trailed Amite High Magnet School 14-0 early in the first quarter.
As Smith, who was an all-state football player himself at Ferriday back in the day tells it, Dillon walked to the sideline and said, “No, no, no. Not tonight. Not gonna happen tonight.”
“We came back and reeled off 42 unanswered points,” said Smith, who is the current Trojans head coach.
On that famed December night in 2019, Dillon accounted for four touchdowns and 288 total yards, including 215 yards on the ground.
Ferriday won going away and advanced to the state championship game for the first time in 35 years.
And the Trojans did it all on the right arm and legs of Dillon, who went on to lead Ferriday to a state title en route to being named the Offensive MVP in the Class 2A Louisiana High School Athletics Association State Championship game, LHSAA District 2-2A First Team Quarterback, Merit Health Player of The Year and something called Beast of the Week.
The championship and accolades capped off a season where Dillon threw for 1,938 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,386 yards and 23 touchdowns.
He was the perfect prototype high school football player — almost the kind of kid Hollywood film directors would center a cheesy movie around.
Dillon was a good student from all accounts. He was also the strongest athlete in the weight room and featured a relentless work ethic that impressed coaches and earned him mutual respect among his peers.
“He always had a plan,” said Smith. “He always had goals he wanted to achieve. Some things you just can’t coach. (Players) have to have something on the inside. He had that it factor.”
So it was no surprise when the now freshman Southern running back turned his first career collegiate start at running back into a historic one, rushing for a single-game SWAC record 267 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“We see it every day in practice,” said head coach Jason Rollins. “(Dillon) is a young man who works so hard every day and finally got his opportunity to be the starter and took full advantage of it.”
Dillon, who was playing scout team quarterback in the spring shortly after arriving at Southern after a six-month stint at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, entered the game with 36 career rushing attempts and just 253 yards.
He was inserted into a starting role by Rollins just before kickoff after senior Devon Benn couldn’t go due to injury.
“I had a little excitement,” said Dillon after being told by Rollins that he would get the bulk of the carries versus UAPB. I knew I was going to play but I didn’t know I would be starting. I stayed humble and did what I had to do.”
So when did this quarterback turned record-breaking running back know that a mid-October day would be a special one?
“It was after my second touchdown,” he said about the 45-yard gallop to cement a 7-play, 80-yard drive. “I had the feeling … I had a feeling this was going to be a good one.”
That intuition was realized after a 75-yard touchdown scamper on the first play of the third quarter.
With the record in hand and all the immediate attention and praise that followed, Dillon took time to reflect on just how far he’d come.
From an offensive lineman as a scrawny six-year-old to star high school quarterback to a frustrating tenure at junior college to earning SWAC Offensive Player of the Week months after not knowing what his future football held.
“Coming from where I come from, football is all we got,” Dillon said of Ferriday, the small eastern Louisiana town of 3,000 residents that produced rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, controversial evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and where 40.7% of families and 47.4% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the most recent census data. “It’s the only way out.
“I was shocked,” he said of breaking the league rushing record that had been held by former Jaguar Lenard Tillery, who tallied 245 in 2016 against Prairie View. I never expected anything like that. … not as a freshman. I was surprised.”
Football and the support of his mother and sisters he said, kept him out of trouble and focused on making something of his life away from Ferriday.
Smith, who played Division I football at Louisiana Lafayette and had a stint in the Arena Football League, said Dillon’s performance is a proud moment for the Ferriday community. The achievement “shines a light on him and the town,” he said.
“It’s a great feeling to see a kid you nurtured and put time in do well,” Smith said. “It resonated with the high school being a predominately Black school having one of our kids make history.
“It means we’ve done our job that at least one of them got it. It feels good.”