SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Every child who grows up in the town of Southlake, a suburb of Dallas, is a Dragon from kindergarten through high school graduation.

No elementary or middle school affiliated with its independent school district has a different mascot.

Several local businesses have adopted the school colors — green, white and black — or the Dragon name.

Each student spends 11th and 12th grade at Carroll Senior High School, which has a huge billboard right off the nearby roadway listing a bevy of athletic accomplishments.

Some of those feats the school has accomplished are thanks in large part to arguably the most famous Dragon of all: Chase Daniel.

Before his years at Missouri and in the NFL, Daniel spent two seasons as Southlake Carroll’s starting quarterback. As a sophomore, he started at wide receiver.

Daniel amassed a 47-1 record and won a state championship in 2002, as well as another state title and a USA Today national championship in 2004.

“I had a great high school football experience there,” Daniel told the Tribune this summer. “... A lot of my good friends were some of my high school buddies that I played football with. It's sort of a bond that lasts a lifetime, so it's pretty special.”

Southlake Carroll is among the most well-known high schools not only in Texas but possibly the country for its tradition and success. The Dragons are tied for a Texas-record eight state championships.

That tradition only grew richer because of Daniel and dozens of other gridiron stars to call Southlake home.

“These kids aren’t wearing Dallas Cowboys jerseys or different college jerseys. They’re wearing Carroll Dragons replica jerseys. That’s pretty unique,” said current Carroll head football coach Riley Dodge, a former Dragon quarterback himself.

Dodge was a freshman when Daniel was a senior. Thanks to the fact that Todd Dodge, Riley’s father, was Carroll’s head coach when Daniel attended the school, the two are friends and know each other well to this day.

Future Southlake Carroll football players know both their names as well. Green No. 4 jerseys can be seen around town in homage to Daniel, while No. 11 can be seen for Dodge’s jersey number.

Current SEC Network commentator Greg McElroy was the Dragons’ signal caller in between Daniel and Dodge. After graduating from Southlake, McElroy won a national title at Alabama and played for the New York Jets.

“It’s a long-lasting tradition playing quarterback here,” Riley Dodge said. “We’ve had some really good ones. I think when you are the starting quarterback in this town, everybody knows who you are.

“The expectations of how you handle yourself on and off the field are really high and that’s something I always took into great consideration, especially watching Chase and how he handled himself on and off the field on his way to Mizzou and the NFL.”

Carroll’s current starting quarterback, sophomore Quinn Ewers, will take his first regular-season snaps at the varsity level this Friday night.

Earlier this year, Ewers was rated as the top pro-style Class of 2022 quarterback in Texas and already has collegiate offers from Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and Texas A&M.

Also this summer, Ewers led the Dragons’ 7-on-7 football team to second place of 64 squads at a large-school state tournament.

Ewers met Daniel once before in third or fourth grade and wants to uphold the high standards of Dragon football.

“It’s actually crazy, I don’t think it's really soaked in as much right now,” Ewers said of being Carroll’s starting quarterback. “I mean, I haven’t played a game yet, so I’m sure I’ll think about it more as the season starts up, but to be able to start and play at the same stadiums and whatnot, it’s awesome because what (Daniel and the Dodges) have done for this program. I just want to live up to what they have.”

Riley Dodge doesn’t bring up past success all too often in the quarterback room. He wants the current signal callers to identify their own path. But it’s hard not to think about the past superstars.

As Ewers or anyone else enters Dragon Stadium, which is about five miles from Carroll Senior High, they’ll see photos of Daniel donned in his high school colors along with other famous gridiron alumni.

The roster of Dragon alumni also includes Garrett Hartley, Kenny Hill, Tre’ Newton and Scott Chandler.

“He’s talked about a lot up here just because of the things he did here and the tradition that’s here at Southlake,” Ewers said of Daniel. “He’s pretty much a legend up here.”

It’s common in Class 6A, Texas’ largest high school football classification with over 200 public-school members and enrollments over 2,200 students, not to have the football stadium on school grounds.

For reference, Columbia’s largest high school, Rock Bridge, had around 1,900 students last year, according to the U.S. News & World Report.

With a state as large as Texas, it’s easy to see why its high school football is so revered.

“The state of Texas has always had some of the best high school football in the nation, along with Florida and Ohio and California. Don’t want to leave those states out, but I’m pretty biased,” Daniel said. “I think we have, especially quarterback-wise, I think we have some pretty good ones that come out of (Texas).

“So it's a big deal, people take pride in it, everyone’s seen the movie Friday Night Lights, it's not all like that, but it's pretty crazy and people especially in small-town Texas, they take pride in their high school football Friday nights.”

As Daniel came to Columbia and became synonymous with Missouri football, Todd Dodge soon after made the jump from high school football coach to Division I head coach at North Texas.

Todd Dodge now is the head coach at Westlake High School in Austin, where he helped guide current University of Texas starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

The elder Dodge is also still close with Daniel. Two months ago, they had dinner together in San Diego, where Daniel resides in the offseason.

Last November, before Daniel led the Bears to a Thanksgiving Day win over the Lions, the duo talked.

“My wife absolutely loves Chase,” Todd Dodge said. “She said, ‘Next to my son Riley, he’s one of my all-time favorites.’”

Back in 2007, Daniel invited Todd Dodge to be in the crowd in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

Dodge said one of his real regrets as a coach is not attending as he was on a recruiting trip that weekend. Daniel finished fourth in the voting behind Tim Tebow, Darren McFadden and Colt Brennan.

Beyond having a good relationship, Dodge may have wanted to be there to continually give support to a role model for his present and future players.

“Some kids throughout the years, they go acting like a knucklehead and they're the one that everybody’s looking at, and all of a sudden, there's a bad vibe in town about our team because of that kid. Chase never let that happen,” Todd Dodge said. “He was always so good with adults, so good with younger kids, had a very humble presence about him, a caring presence.

“... Chase was probably everything you want in the starting quarterback at a big-time 6A program in the state of Texas. Gifted obviously, played really well every Friday night … unbelievably confident, a nice swagger about him in those days, the first one to embrace reaching out to younger kids in our program, our town, being a great role model for them. He was well thought of and still is today.”

Daniel hasn’t only given back to Southlake, where both his parents still reside. A little less than a decade ago, the Chase Daniel Lone Star State Scholarship was started with help from an endowment fund.

The current Chicago Bear gives yearly to the fund, which gives a scholarship to a student from Texas who attends MU. Anyone else can donate money too.

It’s preferably given to an athlete, but that’s not a requirement. The scholarship takes into effect school work and community outreach as well as athletic accomplishments. Former Tigers quarterback James Franklin was one of the recipients.

It’s one way Missouri stays connected to the Lone Star State. Current MU head coach Barry Odom stated at SEC Media Days that Texas has always been a really important state to the program.

“When we were in the Big 12, they recruited Texas very heavily and it’s always been a big Texas-type school,” Daniel said. “A lot of guys from Texas went there. A lot of people from Texas, the Dallas area, still go Mizzou. The Mizzou alumni chapter in Dallas is huge. So it's definitely a point of pride for us and it's something that we hope that continues with the legacy at Mizzou.”

Presently, the Tigers have a Texas quarterback in Shawn Robinson, who played for two standout high school football teams in Denton Ryan and DeSoto, the latter of which he won a Class 6A state championship with as a senior in 2016.

“I grew up watching him play. He's an icon at Southlake,” Robinson said of Daniel. “Growing up there was a bunch of great quarterbacks, and he was one of them. Him, (Riley) Dodge, Kyler Murray, all of those guys.”

Today, Carroll football has a motto of “Protect The Tradition." It was a moniker Todd Dodge brought to the Dragons when he became head coach in 2000, and it stuck.

Daniel and the faces of fellow famous alumni are all over the walls at Carroll, and that’s the prestige the Dragons like to keep.

Being an efficient passer and effective leader might be Daniel’s better-known legacy.

But in mid-Missouri and undeniably in Southlake, Daniel is known for much more than that.

Daniel understands he has represented more than himself, his family and his friends since being named the Dragons’ starting quarterback 16 years ago.

“He set a great standard,” Todd Dodge said. “In our town at Southlake, everybody when he walks into a restaurant, good, bad or indifferent, everybody knows who the starting quarterback is and you better be making sure that you're representing our program in a positive light, and Chase absolutely did. I think every other quarterback to come since him has also.”

eblum@columbiatribune.com

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