RICHMOND, Ill. — Dalton Wagner spent the last two years of his life growing. A growth spurt that began during his sophomore year at Richmond-Burton High School caused him to shoot to 6-foot-9.
That year was also the last time he cut his hair.
“I always thought the long hair was like a staple of offensive linemen,” Wagner said. “It makes you look cool.”
Wagner — his flowing brown hair now hanging beneath his shoulders — graduated from high school early and signed with Arkansas. He reported to Fayetteville last month and participated in some Belk Bowl practices.
The former 3-star prospect’s father Brad played center at Western Illinois. His older brother, Bryce, just wrapped up his sophomore season at Southern Illinois.
Two common attributes that bind those three Wagners: Their height and their hair.
“My dad told me that all offensive linemen need long hair, and he had some pretty sweet hair in college,” Dalton said before adding with a laugh, “He’s still got some sweet hair … although his is receding a little bit.”
Wagner said he plans on keeping his hair long at Arkansas, although he admitted that the warmer weather might require him to trim it up a little bit.
“I tell him all the time he needs to get a haircut,” said Richmond-Burton offensive line coach Tad DePorter. “If you’re gonna have hair like that … it’s like wearing those really bright, flashy shoes. You’ve gotta back it up.
“He backs it up, so I can’t complain too much about it.”
As far as Dalton’s height goes, that was a far more difficult transition. As his rapid growth spurt began, agility drills and exercises like squats became very difficult.
“Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t get my depth with it,” Dalton said of squatting. “I started using the bungee cord on it so I made sure I knew I was low enough.
“The most clumsy I felt was during the agility stuff.”
As his height leveled off, though, and he got more used to it, things worked out. Dalton became a great high school player and received several FBS scholarship offers, eventually choosing to commit to Arkansas. The Razorbacks, of course, have recent history with super-sized offensive linemen. Senior Dan Skipper, at 6-10, has an inch on Wagner.
Really, the only thing left for Wagner to grow is something he’s having trouble with — facial hair.
When he’s tried to grow a beard, the mustache and sideburns come in with little in between.
“It just won’t go,” he said. “That ticks me off.”
Still, as Wagner prepared to head off to college, coaches at Richmond-Burton marvel at just how quickly he did grow over the past couple of years.
“We were just looking at his picture from his sophomore year recently,” DePorter said. “He had a baby face. He was chubby all over the place. Now he looks like a man-child.
“His physical development over the last couple of years has been incredible to watch.”