NICOLLET - As a younger football player, Nicollet junior quarterback Dalton Elliott didn't have a ton of success as he played for a team in junior high that went winless.
That was one thing that helped make Elliott the player he is today. Fast forward a few years and many practices with teammates later, Elliott is one of the best passers in the state, throwing for 2,872 yards, which was best among all classes this past fall.
The biggest thing for him was getting back to the 9-man state tournament, which the Raiders did. They lost in the first round, but with eight seniors back next year, including Elliott, there's a good chance they'll be back next year.
Photo illustration by Steve Muscatello
Elliott and his family moved to Nicollet when he was in the fourth grade. He watched his older brother play on a team that won only one game, so the Raiders program has rebounded quite well.
Now he's become perhaps the most prolific in a long-line of Raider quarterbacks that have had success at the high school and even college level.
Elliott was named the 2013 All-Journal Offensive Player of the Year after his record-setting year for the Raiders.
Elliott led Nicollet to a state playoff berth and passed for a state-best 2,872 yards while completing 59 percent of his passes for 37 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,366 yards and 21 touchdowns.
With one more season at Nicollet, Elliott is already the school's career leader in completions and attempts (414-for-738), passing yards (6,349), touchdown passes (79), all-purpose touchdowns (107) and all-purpose yards (8,789).
"He's a believer, and so am I, that hard work will pay off and he believes that what he does makes him better," said Nicollet coach Tom Murphy. "He would come in and work with us, we would work five days a week and the team worked out, it was for anyone that wanted to work out, and he'd go out on his own too. That commitment made him stronger."
It was the second time Elliott made it to the state tournament and he said it was a total team effort to get back there.
"It took a lot, we had summer lifting programs five days a week, we went to camps," Elliott said. "We put in a lot of work, a lot of the guys are committed. It left a sour taste in our mouth [in 2012] when we didn't get to state, but we just realized we had to put in a lot of time with the camps and work out."
He's already set many school passing records and he'll add to that next year with a different group of receivers. The records aren't something that he thinks about now but they do mean a lot to him when he sits back and takes a look at all of it.
"It means a whole lot, Nicollet is a football school, and just beyond our school, breaking conference records," Elliott said. "Just to look back and say I accomplished that, all that hard work does pay off in the end."
This past week, Elliott took an unofficial visit to Northern Illinois University. While it doesn't mean that he'll be attending that college to play football in the future, it does mean that he's looking at his options already and he thinks football will be something he will pursue at the next level.
"Coming from a small school like Nicollet, it was pretty eye-opening," Elliott said. "The entire town of Dekalb, Ill., is just dedicated to the college and the athletics and football in particular I guess. Just watching how everyone was into it was amazing. But game-wise, I'm watching them and when I work on the stuff I know I need to work on, there's no reason I can't play with these guys."
And with some many guys coming back for the Raiders next year, it's never too early to think about 2014.
"There's been a lot of teams from Nicollet that have gone to the state tournament, about four or five that have gone to the semis or to the championship," Elliott said. "We want to be know as that first group that brings it all back. We want to go out on top."