This time last season, SouthLake Christian Academy linebacker Travis Hallman had racked up 50 tackles against his competition, ranking in the top five in the county, and impressing all who watched him play.
By week 12, Hallman had tallied 118 tackles, taken the lead in county stats and caught his opponents by surprise. He was also one of the top offensive players on the team, recording 61 catches as a wide receiver. The numbers were impressive for any high school player, but they especially said a lot about Hallman, considering it was his first year playing football.
This season his opponents are less surprised by his play, and more prepared for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior, but so is Hallman.
Eagles' coach Rich Landis said Hallman's success has a lot to do with his commitment. Hallman found the time while playing American Legion baseball to put together his own weight-lifting program and add some extra pounds.
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"He's gotten bigger this year and it was all his own doing," said Landis. "He got here for summer workouts, around his baseball schedule, but he did his lifting all on his own. He's very dedicated to it."
But more than just getting bigger, Hallman was determined to get better.
"I struggled last year," said Hallman. "I had to figure out what to do all the time. I knew I could be a much better leader."
And so, at practices and on game day, fans and opponents not only see what Hallman brings to the Eagles, but these days they can hear it, as well.
"He's definitely the vocal leader," said Landis. "He (brings) it everyday, and the younger guys really respect him."
Hallman, who is also a standout baseball players at SouthLake, is one of the team captains, alongside senior quarterback Sam Remick and senior lineman Charles Hazzard. Together, the three lead by example, showing fortitude, perseverance and dedication for the young Eagles.
Even with a bruised sternum Hallman suffered in the team's Sept. 24 loss to East Lincoln, he hasn't missed a beat.
"He practiced all week without gear," said Landis.
The Oct. 1 game against Asheville was the first time Hallman had even put pads on that entire week.
"I told him to 'Make sure it feels good,' but to see him out there playing, you wouldn't have known anything was wrong."
Hallman finished that game with six tackles, bringing his season total to 36.5. He had also recorded three sacks and one interception going into Friday's game at Christ School. His numbers may not be where they were at this time last year, but he also isn't the only player defending on the outside this year.
Cornerback Revonn Hassell is a new addition to the team, having joined just a few weeks before the season, but he's already made his presence known. Junior Ashton Stroud has also been a helpful addition on the defensive line and sophomore Demitri Allison at safety.
Hallman also had 415 yards on 21 receptions and five touchdowns for the Eagles' offense before Friday's game.
The Eagles have more weapons this year, taking a lot of the pressure off of Hallman, and making them more competitive as well. At 6-2, the Eagles already have more wins than they have in the last two years. They finished 2-8 last season and 4-6 in 2008.
And in his second year Hallman may no longer be a novelty on the field, but he hasn't changed his mentality. It's still tackle or be tackled.
"Last year I was under the radar," he said. "I had to step it up. My goal for this year is to be a leader, make plays, and make tackles."
So far, so good.