Two weeks in a wheelchair might not seem like a long time.
For Dalton Daum, however, those two weeks were more than enough for him to have a firm understanding of what next Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game is all about.
“It’s an honor to be able to play in it and help all those kids who have it a lot rougher than we do,” Daum said of playing in the game that raises money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane. “It’s special.”
Daum is one of six players representing the Mining City on the West team, which opened camp Saturday at Montana Tech. This year’s football game is in Great Falls.
Fellow former Butte High Bulldog Clay Dean is also on the West roster, as are Butte Central graduates Kaemen Richards, Marcus Ferriter, Danny Peoples and Chad Peterson. Butte Central coach Don Peoples Jr. is the head coach. BC’s assistant Stephan Burns is on the coaching staff.
A future Montana Grizzly, Daum will go down in history as one of the greatest athletes in Butte High history.
He has four State titles in track and field and a State title in football on his résumé. He won the Gatorade Montana Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year award the last two springs.
He was recruited heavily for football and track by schools around the country, including Harvard.
For a couple of weeks after helping the Bulldogs win the Class AA State football title, though, Daum didn’t feel much like an athlete. Instead, he was slowly going from class to class at Butte High in a wheelchair.
Daum, who had to take several cortisone shots to get him through his sophomore season, had surgery on both of his feet following that season. He had bone spurs removed from both feet. He also had a torn capsule repaired in his right foot.
“I didn’t know before the surgery that I was getting both of them,” Daum said after practice Sunday morning. “(The doctor) said if the right one looks really bad then he’ll go into the left. I woke up with two wrappings on both feet. He threw me in a wheelchair. It wasn’t the best time.”
Daum went into the surgery thinking he’d leave in a walking boot.
“If they only would have had to do one I would have been in a boot,” he said. “I wouldn’t have needed crutches. He said he couldn’t put me in two boots. I’d be walking around like Frankenstein.”
Going to school wasn’t easy after the surgery.
“It wasn’t that fun of a two weeks,” Daum said. “It was tough getting in and out of class. I just mainly sat up front. I didn’t even have a desk. I just sat there in my wheelchair. It was pretty tough. I got a little fat from not moving.”
Daum returned to action for the basketball team six weeks after the surgery. He was full strength in time for the track season, and he placed third in the 100- and 200-meter races at the Class AA State meet as a sophomore
He placed second in those races at State as a freshmen. He won them as a junior and senior.
Daum closed his Butte High football career with 196 receptions for 2,997 yards and 32 touchdowns. He holds single-season school records for TD catches (16 in 2013), receiving yards (1,217 in 2013) and receptions (76 in 2013).
Unofficially, Daum also holds the school record for most receptions (5), yards (84) and receiving touchdowns (1) while playing with a huge cast on his right hand. He played the last two games of his career with a broken hand.
“When it first happened I thought I was done for the year,” Daum said. “I thought I’d just get a club. I didn’t think they’d put me on offense. I thought I’d be stuck on defense.”
Daum played on both sides of the ball, however. He caught a touchdown against Missoula Big Sky and drew still constant attention from opposing defenses.
After he broke on the scene with a remarkable sophomore season, Daum drew constant attention from opposing defenses the rest of his Bulldog career. It’s been said that when Daum went to his locker between classes he had three defensive backs covering him.
That attention, he said, was bittersweet.
“I guess it benefitted us because guys got open,” Daum said. “It kind of sucked, but it helped the team out. If there’s three guys on me, two guys on me then someone’s got one-on-one coverage. Of all the years I was at Butte High one thing we always had was good receivers every year.
“When you had someone double team you, you could always count on another receiver to come through.”
Daum committed to play football for Montana State University on Nov. 30. On Jan. 11 he announced he was changing his commitment to play for the Grizzlies. That move came after new coach Bob Stitt offered the speedy receiver a full scholarship.
That full scholarship wasn’t on the table from the Grizzlies before that.
Heading into the 2015 season, Daum isn’t sure if he will redshirt or contribute for the Grizzlies this season.
“He said he wanted to try to keep our freshman class together,” Daum said of Stitt. “I’d like to play, but if I redshirt it’s another year. I don’t want to redshirt and not play that much, and waste a year.
“It would be nice to have a year to get settled in and used to everything, lifting and get stronger,” Daum said. “If I redshirt I do, but if I don’t I’ll be excited to play.”
So, there’s a good chance that Saturday’s Shrine Game will be the last time Daum will play in a game that counts until late August or September of 2016.
At least it is a game that Daum knows really does count for children who spend a lot more than two weeks in a wheelchair.
“We’re just athletes who come out here and just play a football game,” Daum said. “But it’s really special to know how much money we help raise for those people who need it.”
Note: ButteSports.com will profile all six players representing the Mining City in the July 18 Montana East-West Shrine Game in Great Falls. Other players from Butte are Kaemen Richards, Danny Peoples, Chad Peterson and Marcus Ferriter of Butte Central and Clay Dean of Butte High.