The 2016 season was going to be a little different for Sussex Hamilton's Calvin Dassow. Coming into the season, Dassow had verbally committed to Northern Illinois University, putting a larger spotlight on himself.
Dassow didn't seem to mind the extra attention of being one of the best offensive linemen in the state. His coach, John Damato, felt he handled the situation well.
"I've had a few early commits over the years, and Cal had the best senior year of all of them," Damato said. "I think that's a testament to his personality and his commitment to excellence. He is a very unselfish player who always put the team before his personal accomplishments. His focus was always on the team and never on himself. I think this not only benefited the team immensely but Cal as well."
Dassow helped lead a strong rushing attack for HHS this past season and has been honored on Now's All Suburban football team.
"At the beginning of the year, I was a little nervous living up to (being a future) Division 1 player," Dassow said. "Once I got into the games, I feel I played how I usually played. I sort of zoned out all the other pressures outside the game. I worried about my job during the game."
Hamilton's offensive linemen have to specialize in run blocking for the most part since the team rarely passes. In 2016, Hamilton's top four rushers compiled 1,937 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, but the Chargers missed out on the playoffs with a 3-4 record in the Greater Metro Conference (5-4 overall).
One of the highlights for Hamilton came in the second game of the season at Cedarburg in a 28-24 win. Jackson Kollath caught a 58-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left to secure the win for HHS.
"I still feel like we had a good season even though it didn't end up how we wanted it to," Dassow said. "Winning our first two games, especially that Cedarburg game. It was probably the most exciting win of the season, I would say, with the last play of the game with the touchdown we had. I felt like it was still a successful season."
Dassow, who plans to major in biology at NIU and was named honorable-mention All State by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, has a constant drive to not stop until the whistle is called.
"I thought I did pretty good with opening up holes when I was down blocking," Dassow said. "I usually ended up down on the ground with a guy. It was a fight till the finish."
Being 6-7, 310 pounds, Dassow worked to improve several parts of his game coming into the season.
"I've really improved my foot speed and balance," Dassow said. "Especially with hand punching, too. Coach Damato (would have us do) a bunch of drills with that. That always helped me improve. I think I'll be pretty good at the college level. But you can always improve with anything."
"His greatest strengths are his hips and hands," Damato said. "He has heavy hands and great hip mobility. He can absolutely engulf defenders when he rolls his hips and finishes with his hands."
Dassow's physical play wasn't the only thing to improve.
"I felt his confidence improved two-fold from last year," Damato said. "He's our hardest worker, and it comes as no surprise seeing him developed into a dominant offensive lineman."
Damato has no doubt Dassow will succeed at Northern Illinois.
"Cal possesses the smarts, size and work ethic to compete in the MAC," Damato said. "I've never coached an athlete with more potential than Cal. If he develops like he did in high school, his career will go well beyond Northern Illinois."