By Dr. Oscar Solis
A Hometown Hero
Fans of West Texas A&M University football might not have noticed Dalton Bell when he arrived as a freshman in 2002.
The small-town student athlete was the eighth-string quarterback on the roster, and his WTAMU scholarship amounted to $500 for books.
Little did the fans know, but that was all the opportunity that Dalton needed to rise from his humble beginnings. Combining determination and perseverance with a WTAMU education, Dalton has now transitioned from a professional football career into a successful real estate career.
Raised in Happy, Texas, Dalton moved with his family to Canyon, Texas, as a fourth-grader. Although the transition felt big at the time, Dalton quickly realized that Canyon was a welcoming community. As a high school quarterback, his team’s offense was run-oriented, limiting his chances to showcase his passing ability. But Dalton and his father, knowing that he could compete at the collegiate level, created highlight videos and sent them to colleges across Texas.
Ideally, Dalton was hoping to attend Texas A&M University in College Station to be alongside his high school sweetheart and now wife, Abbie. But WTAMU’s scholarship offer – and his desire to play football – kept him close to home.
Life at WTAMU
At one time, Dalton had aspirations of being a chiropractor, but he opted for a marketing degree, and he now knows that WTAMU has more than equipped him with the skills and the knowledge that he needs to be successful in anything that he does. He once visited Abbie at Texas A&M and sat in on a large lecture class, which helped him to appreciate his smaller class sizes, the caring leadership of his professors, and the overall learning environment at WTAMU. And staying close to home was a blessing in disguise: He and his teammates took advantage of home-cooked meals at his parents’ house, which made other players feel welcomed in the community.
By Dalton’s junior year, this one-time eighth-stringer was the starter. That year, the team won the Lone Star Conference (LSC) and made their first Division II playoff appearance in school history. The following year the Buffs won the LSC again and won their first Division II playoff game in school history. One of his most memorable experiences as a player was when he and the Buffs beat the No. 4 team in the nation. In his two years as the team captain and starting quarterback, the All-American amassed a 21-4 record and rewrote the WTAMU record books in passing touchdowns and yardage.
A very low percentage of collegiate athletes, much less Division II athletes, earn the opportunity to play at the professional level. But again, with Dalton’s perseverance and hard work, his time at WTAMU was just the opportunity he needed. He played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) for the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks, and in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts. Along the way, he met NFL Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Troy Aikman, basketball legend Michael Jordan, and other notable professional athletes. In 2013, he was inducted into the WTAMU Athletic Hall of Champions, which recognizes the finest student-athletes, coaches, administrators and other notable individuals who have contributed to the success of West Texas A&M Athletics.
Life after sports can be a difficult transition for many successful athletes. Thankfully, Dalton was able to embrace the new chapter in his life and drew on his academic and professional experiences. One of his first job prospects was a landman with an oil and gas company. Most recently, Dalton joined friend and Red Homes owner, Tim Porter, who also grew up in Canyon, for an opportunity to work in the real estate industry.
Red Homes is building multiple units in Canyon, Hereford, Bushland, and Amarillo. Dalton’s responsibilities include streamlining budgets, making sure financials are accurate, and working with contractors and subcontractors to ensure quality and efficiency. Dalton enjoys the real estate industry and plans to continue to thrive and prosper in this area of business.
“The real estate business has truly challenged and stretched me to grow socially, personally, and professionally.”
Away from work, Dalton enjoys spending time with Abbie and their four children, Boston, Bowen, Romie, and Noah. He coaches his kids in baseball, basketball, and football – and he hasn’t ruled out coaching at the high school or collegiate level sometime in the future.
Giving Back to the Community
Dalton’s unique experience allows him to encourage and motivate others to dream big and not limit themselves. He often speaks to student-athletes and youth in the community about the lessons he’s learned from his experiences at WTAMU and playing professional football. Deeply invested in the community and the Texas Panhandle, Dalton collaborated with Matt Allen, a former high school teammate and Abilene Christian University football athlete, to start the West Texas Flag Football League, which is affiliated with the NFL. The two former collegiate athletes provide a fun, non-contact program that promotes teamwork, discipline, and mental toughness and teaches football fundamentals. The premier sports league serves youth from Canyon and surrounding communities.
Dalton credits a lot of his success to his family and the support of Canyon and WTAMU. One thing he’s most proud of is how WTAMU prepared him to be successful on and off the field. This is one of his central messages for WTAMU students and others from smaller towns: to recognize their inherent value and ability, and expect that they can compete with anyone, athletically or professionally.
“It doesn’t matter whether you come from a smaller school or small town. Always know that you belong.”
For more information about Undergraduate Programs in the Engler College of Business, contact COBundergrad@wtamu.edu or 806-651-2525.