Reeltown football practice

Andy Anders / The Outlook Reeltown continues its camp Thursday, Aug. 5.

Few football players in Tallapoosa County have a nickname that is both as intimidating and as accurate as Dee Griffin’s.

The player called “Alpha Dawg” by teammates and coaches leaps out on film. He’s a force at defensive end, powering past would-be blockers and slamming down opposing ball carriers to the tune of 83 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2020.

At offensive tackle he fires out from a four-point stance, a rare sight in football these days, attacking defensive linemen and linebackers with a violent quickness that often leaves them flying backward.

“Dawg mentality” is one of the top things Reeltown head coach Matt Johnson preaches. His top dog is called the Alpha.

“He’s just a leader, leads by example,” Johnson said. “Really gritty. Ferocious. High energy. He’s got a motor that won’t stop, and of course, ‘Alpha.’ Alpha male, alpha leader, alpha dog. Leader-of-the-pack-type mentality. He fits every one of those descriptions.”

Playing with such aggression wasn’t a new concept for Griffin in 2020.

He recalls being the same way his entire football career to this point.

“Ever since, literally, I can remember,” Griffin said when asked how long he’s had his aggressive playstyle. “Everybody wanted me to come play for them and stuff like that. I was always physical.

“I just love hitting people.”

Upon arriving at the high school level, Griffin said he picked up on a few key traits held by leaders of Reeltown’s 2019 state runner-up team, namely running back Cameron Faison and wide receiver Eric Shaw.

Shaw he admired especially, as much for his play at outside linebacker as out wide.

“It’s how Eric Shaw played,” Griffin said. “I liked the dog in him. He played like he had a chip on his shoulder. That’s how I play.”

Then a sophomore, Griffin was a significant contributor on the 2019 team as well, Johnson noted. The difference now is that he’s the player the Rebels’ younger guys look up to, much like he used to look up to Faison or Shaw.

Griffin said he takes a team-first mentality when it comes to leadership. He views his teammates as brothers, the team as a family.

Johnson asked him to be more vocal entering 2021, and told him he can’t always be the nice guy. He’s been blunt with his teammates when necessary this summer.

“It’s more of just the mental toughness part of it, when it’s 100 degrees outside, and you’re tired, and you’re running sprints and you jump offside,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you need a teammate to correct you in a very authoritative manner, and he’s not afraid to do that.”

He added that Griffin’s leadership influence extends beyond the field to the classroom and in the community. Johnson referred to him as “a picture of our program.”

The evolution of his nickname came alongside his leadership.

“Dee,” already short for Rondarius, became “Dee Dawg,” which became “Alpha Dawg” when he became one of the team’s foremost voices.

2020 marked the true emergence of both the moniker and the star player. It doesn’t hurt that he weighed in at a lean, mean 250 pounds.

“Last year, the motor that he had and his physicality out of the gate, he just really embraced that description. And just look at him.”

Griffin’s primary goal for his senior season is getting back to the state title game. College offers would be nice, he added, but his main focus remains with the team.

He and the Rebels get to take the first step on that path against archrival Tallassee Thursday, Aug. 19.

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