Bret Bielema helps local teen live coaching dream


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Like countless youths, Dallas Walker once dreamed of having a football career. When those dreams were dashed by a physical condition, he shifted those dreams to becoming a football coach.

This week, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is allowing the teenager to briefly live that dream.

Dallas, 14, has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or CMT, a neurological disorder that causes damage to peripheral nerves and can cause muscle weakness and atrophy, including loss of sensation in the feet, lower legs, hands and forearms. Earlier this month Bielema got wind of Dallas' story and called him to invite him to come take in a practice and Arkansas' spring game, which kicks off at 2 p.m. ET Saturday.

On Thursday, Dallas and his father, Brian Walker, got the chance to meet Bielema, attend the Razorbacks' 14th practice of the spring and rub shoulders with other Hogs like athletic director and College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long, defensive coordinator Robb Smith and more.

Saturday, Dallas -- a lifelong Razorback fan who hails from nearby Farmington, Arkansas -- will get the opportunity to call a play in the spring game.

"Incredible is the right word," Dallas said of getting the chance to live his dream. "Nobody really gets to do what I'm going to be able to do. For me to be that one is special and unique. It's a good experience that I'll probably remember for the rest of my life."

Dallas said he was around kindergarten age when he learned of his disorder. He also was diagnosed with scoliosis, which required surgery last fall. That's when he began to turn his attention to football coaching.

"I always had my plan to try and be a football player and if that didn't work out or I was done with that, I'd move on to trying to be a coach, because that's what a lot of people do," Dallas said. "But I had a back surgery in October and I had scoliosis, so they put a screw and two metal rods in there and my doctor said I wasn't going to be able to play pretty much ever again. Then I just kind of thought, 'Well, I guess I can skip on to the coaching part.' "

Brian Walker, who also has been a lifelong Arkansas fan, is grateful for his son to get this special opportunity.

"It meant a lot," Walker said. "It's not something you see or hear about coaches doing a lot of. ... I honestly never expected this to come about."

Bielema said his first impression of Dallas from their phone call was of a young man who was "engaging and fun." He called Thursday's experience "awesome."

"[Dallas] said, 'It's one of the greatest days of my life,' " an emotional Bielema said from his office Friday, his voice cracking. "Didn't cost me a dime. Didn't cost our players a dime. But to that kid, [it means the world]. ... That's pretty cool stuff."

Dallas said he doesn't let his condition deter him.

"It doesn't bother me, I learned to live with it," he said. "I just kind of learned to do stuff an alternative way, maybe not the same way that other people do it."

When Bielema first met Dallas to discuss the play call, he joked with the teenager, telling him, "It better score." As for the details on the play Dallas will get to call, he kept it close to the vest like any big-time college coach would.

"I'd love to tell you, but it's top secret," Dallas said.

KNWA-TV in Arkansas documented Dallas' day at the office with video, which you can see here.