Casey Dick stands a few steps onto the Rogers High School football field as his 8th grade Lakeside Junior High team is driving deep into Elmwood Middle School (Rogers) territory, threatening to add another touchdown to the scoreboard.
The offense walks to the line of scrimmage and the Golden Eagle offensive linemen stick their arms out to the side at shoulder height, assuring each of them are an arms length apart.
In a matter of seconds, Dick relays hand signals from the sideline, the play is communicated to the offense and the ball is snapped to the quarterback in the shotgun formation. It's a designed pass play, but Elmwood's defense quickly applies pressure in the backfield, forcing the dual threat quarterback to improvise. He evades a defender and scampers into the end zone for a score just before the half.
The Golden Eagle lead balloons to 16-0 approaching halftime. Dick, smiling from ear to ear, congratulates a receiver who threw a key block that allowed the touchdown run to happen as he trots off the field, tapping him on the helmet and giving him a series of high fives.
When the final horn sounds, the first-year assistant coach celebrates a 30-14 win just 15 days after securing the Lakeside program's historic first win, a 38-8 rout of Springdale's George Junior High.
Dick, who played quarterback for the Razorbacks from 2005-08 under both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino, has returned to the region he fell in love with as a high schooler. The 28-year-old is now back in Northwest Arkansas doing what he loves: coaching football and raising his young family.
Dick was born in Lucas, Texas, a small town 45 minutes northeast of Dallas. Growing up in a sports-oriented family, he and younger brother Nathan, who also spent some time in a Razorback uniform, dabbled in a bit of everything as kids. Baseball, football, soccer and hunting and fishing were a part of the Dick brothers' everyday lives. If the two were free from sports obligations on the weekend, the family was likely bound for a hunting or fishing trip with their father Steve.
Steve, who passed away in September of 2012 at the young age of 56, taught his boys the value of working hard and having God in their lives early on. "Steve was a compassionate, caring man," said Mary Ellen Dick, Casey and Nathan's mother, and Steve's wife of 30 years. "His two boys meant the world to him. Everything he did in his life was for either me or his kids. He worked hard to send them to camps and give them everything they needed."
Sports was something Dick shared with his father, and where he got his competitive nature. Although he played a variety of sports coming up, once Casey got to Allen High School he narrowed his focus solely to football. "Football was something at a young age that I knew would play a big part in my life," Casey Dick said. "I would describe myself in high school as a kid that was very competitive and always wanted to win no matter what we were doing."
The years of hard work paid dividends for Dick his senior year at Allen. In his only season as the starter for the Eagles, he totaled over 2,300 yards of offense and accounted for 22 touchdowns.
"He was a very competitive player, and he made the people around him play up to his level," said Tom Westerberg, Dick's high school coach at Allen High. "That is a great leader."
Casey's senior season did not come without obstacles, however. In the Texas 6A state playoffs against Southlake Carroll, Dick injured his ankle, the same injury Curt Schilling experienced during the time of his "bloody sock game," and was forced to leave the game. "He hurt it in the first playoff game toward the end, and his little brother came in and finished the game," Westerberg said. "We won in triple overtime."
"At that time, I was worried and didn't know really what would happen," Dick said, "but as soon as the cast came off I rehabbed and bounced back pretty quick." The quarterback had to bounce back. His playing days were far from over. During his senior season, Dick was drawing interest from a slew of college programs: Texas Tech, TCU, Houston and Arkansas, among others.
But before he ever started a game at Allen High, Dick knew he wanted to play for the helmet and suit up for Arkansas. It was only a matter of being offered a scholarship.
"We went for a camp at Arkansas going into Casey's senior year, and he said, 'This is it. This is where I want to be,'" his mother said. "He fell in love with the environment. He walked on the field and knew right then that Arkansas was where he wanted to go. Arkansas made an offer and he jumped on it."
Dick arrived on the Arkansas campus in the fall of 2005, a part of the No. 24 ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Rivals. The class was highlighted by names that would eventually etch their names into college football lore, like Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. But Dick, a three-star and the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals, made a name for himself, too.
After beginning the 2005 season as the backup to Robert Johnson, Dick finished his freshman campaign as the starting quarterback. But his sophomore year, Dick sustained an injury in summer workouts and highly touted Mitch Mustain took over the reigns. Mustain led the Razorbacks to an 8-0 start, but was benched for Dick. He then led Arkansas in the final four games of the season and the program's last trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game against Chris Leak, Percy Harvin and No. 4 Florida.
His legend continued to grow in his final two years on campus, engineering a pair of the greatest moments in Arkansas football history: a 3 OT upset of No. 1 and eventual national champion LSU in Baton Rouge in 2007, and the Miracle on Markham II the following year, again defeating arch rival LSU in dramatic fashion.
"Those three experiences are memories that I'll never forget," Dick said. "The Miracle on Markham II was special overall for me. I honestly didn't think that I would play at all that game, and being a senior and a captain, I just wanted to finish out the year and my career on a high note."
Dick was not drafted into the NFL after a memorable career as a Razorback, but he had a plan all along. "I have a ton of passion for [football], and since the age of 12 I've always wanted to be a coach," he said. "Coaching was always the life I knew I wanted."
Out of college, Dick spent four years as the quarterback and co-offensive coordinator at Byron Nelson High School, five miles west of Southlake, Texas.
After four years back in Texas, Dick and his wife, Felicia, decided to move back to Northwest Arkansas to continue raising their young family and their daughter, Ava. Dick accepted an assistant coaching role at Lakeside Junior High in Springdale and also teaches social studies.
Mary Ellen believes her son will remain in Arkansas for the foreseeable future and continue his coaching career, but doesn't think he'll try to pursue a gig at the college level. She and Casey try to catch up on a weekly basis, weekends working better for them with her busy coaching volleyball at Hart Elementary in Lucas, and Casey roaming the sidelines on Thursday nights.
"By his freshman year [in high school] he said, 'I'm gonna coach,'" Mary Ellen said. "And as he kept growing, he never wavered from it, and never changed his mind. I think it's a good thing he didn't because I think he makes for a great coach."