Rashad Dillard: Chasing quarterbacks around the world!

Rashad Dillard’s football odyssey has taken him a long way from his hometown of Greer, South Carolina.

The 6’1″, 260 pound 26-year defensive end has slept on floors and traveled wherever he could to play the game he loves.

Earlier this year he landed in Mexico, playing for the Mexico City Mexicas in the Liga De Futbol Americano (LFA), one of two pro leagues in that country. In only five games in the pandemic shortened season, the expert pass rushing of Dillard made him the favorite for defensive player of the year. Dillard was leading the league with eight sacks, 20 pressures, and 10 tackles for a loss before the LFA was forced to suspend the season.

Rashad Dillard (#44) tracking down Condors RB Allan Fernando Rasado Alvarez (#32)

Long before he was terrorizing quarterbacks south of the border, Dillard was an undersized walk on at South Carolina State University (NCAA D1 FCS). After one season there, he transferred to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. Dillard knew this was his best chance to earn a scholarship. The move paid off, as one short year later he became a scholarship player at Troy University in Alabama (NCAA D1 FBS).

“I went back to my old high school to work out one day and my head coach gave me an opportunity to play again by going to Kansas and playing at Coffeyville Community College. When I went there, I knew this was my shot to make a portion of my dreams come true and while I was there for those three semesters that is what I did. I played as if I had nothing which was the truth. Troy was the first school to offer me.”

The determined defensive end went on to have an illustrious career at Troy University finishing his senior year with 14 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 40 tackles. His phenomenal season earned him Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year as Dillard and his team went on the win ten games, and a top 25 ranking for first time in school history.

“I’m proud to be a trojan and I’m thankful to trojan nation and the coaching staff that gave me a chance.”

Rashad Dillard had an outstanding career at Troy University Photo: Troy University

Despite his tremendous collegiate career Dillard went undrafted by the NFL. He received an invitation from the New York Jets for a rookie minicamp, worked out with CFL teams, and even spent time with the AAF’s Birmingham Iron before being released.

“I got a rookie minicamp invite and barely got reps there, but I performed well with the ones I did get, after that I went to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a private workout but didn’t get selected, then after that I was homeless, I was living out of duffel bags with nowhere to go. I found a spot finally with my grandmother then my mother moved to a new place and slept on her floor. I kept training every single day and I signed to play in the AAF for the Birmingham Iron, went to minicamp and dominated. The coach compared me to James Harrison which he coached in Pittsburgh, but a few weeks after they cut me for a kicker.”

After moving back home Dillard found out about football in Europe through a former coach. A few months later he signed with the Bucharest Rebels in Romania.

“I had no teams that wanted me to play for them, and one day I got a message asking if I wanted to come play football in Bucharest Romania and I accepted the deal and didn’t look back.”

Dillard was recruited by European football veteran Stan Bedwell who was the Rebels head coach and quarterback at the time. Bedwell on Rashad Dillard:

“Rashad was the ideal example of what an import should be for our domestic players. He brought a high level of intensity and was absolutely dominant on the field.”

Rashad Dillard (#44) and teammate taking down Vukovi Belgrade RB

The Rebels went on to win the championship, as Dillard broke league records in sacks and tackles for loss. The ever-determined Dillard was grateful for his second chance to do what he loves, while discovering a new part of the world.

“At the time I knew nothing about Romania, but I knew that I wanted to play and that I was one of the best at what I did, and it felt good to be wanted again, so they offered me something I didn’t have in years. A room to myself, a bed, food, a gym membership, and the opportunity to play football again. They took me in, and I became a brother to them, and they are brothers to me.”

His 2019 season in Romania attracted the attention of a scout, Nemanja Kokar, who in turn alerted the defensive coordinator of the Mexicas, Fernando Rodriguez.  Rodriguez liked what he saw on film and Dillard ended up in Mexico.

Where he will land in 2021 is still up in there air but his goal remains unchanged as he searches for his next chance to prove himself as a professional. But wherever he ends up, look for him to be ferociously hunting quarterbacks.

 

 

Alex Malchow
Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football stories from across the globe.
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