When D.J. Dormeus walked into the Killeen Kangaroos field house for the first time as a freshman, coach Neil Searcy was in his first season as head coach in the fall of 2015.
On Wednesday, the now 6-foot-2 senior walked into that same field house to sign his national letter of intent to play for Houston Baptist.
“It has been a long, long journey,” said Dormeus as he thought back on the road to putting his signature on that dotted line.
“It’s unreal,” said Dormeus’ mother, Dinette. “I feel like just the other day we had just moved to Texas and he was in the sixth grade, and now he’s going to college.
“It still hasn’t hit me, and I don’t think it will until we get to graduation, but it’s been a long process.”
When the wide receiver first came to Killeen, he planned to focus on playing basketball but fractured his tibia in his sophomore year.
It was after that injury that he shifted his focus to football.
“That was a long recovery process,” he recalled. “But I came back and the coaching staff was with me the whole time, supported me the whole way and I was able to just progress and mold into the program and excel.”
Dormeus had various offers — including Ivy League schools Princeton, Brown and Cornell — but as soon as he took his official visit with the Huskies, he knew it was the program for him.
On the second night of his visit, Dormeus and a group of recruits spent some time together.
Among the group were two who had already committed to Houston Baptist: Brandon Walker of Sulphur, La., and Tra Fluellen of Gilmer.
“I was hanging out with them and I was just like, ‘Wow, I just met these guys and I already feel like I’ve known these guys forever,’” Dormeus said. “It was then that I knew I could be here, play football and continue my academics.”
And while Dinette is happy that she can take a three-hour drive to watch her son play, she said she would have supported his decision wherever he chose to play.
“He was pursued by some Ivy Leagues and we had gone on some tours and he’d say, ‘I like that school,’” she explained. “But when we went to Houston Baptist, he was like, ‘This is it. This is where I want to be.’
“He was very sure and I kept asking him if he was certain and he was like, ‘I’m sure-sure.’ So I’m proud of him for making the decision, being a man, stepping up and knowing what he was looking for.”
Being able to stay close to home was an added bonus for Dormeus when he settled on playing for the Huskies.
“I’m a family person,” he said. “So being in the Houston area just three hours from home and having them be able to see me or speak to me instead of having a barrier where I’m all the way across the country or something is definitely a plus.”
Searcy is proud to see the first player from his inaugural team sign and knows that Houston Baptist is getting a leader in Dormeus, both on and off the field.
“We just had D.J. address the freshmen and talk to them about his journey in getting to this point,” said Searcy. “And he talked to them about what it’s going to take for those guys to get here and told them things he did that he probably would have done different.”
When it comes to on-the-field performance, Dormeus said he wished he knew his freshman year how vital hitting the weight room really was.
“The weight room is a serious thing and if you take the weight room seriously, it will all translate,” he said.
As for academics, “Your freshman year is your most important year because it’s easy for you to fall behind but it’s not easy to catch back up.
“If you start in the 3.5 GPA range and above, then you can keep it going for the rest your high school career and it will open up multiple doors for you.”
Academics was Dormeus’ plan for getting to college as he wasn’t sure that playing at the next level was a real possibility for him until his junior year when he played alongside Roos alumni Marcellus Johnson, Montego Muckelvaney, Zion Love and Alyzcha Ulufale-Hentz.
“All the people that I look up to,” Dormeus said. “We had that little run and getting District 8-6A first team All-District; I was like ‘Dang, I can really do this.’”
Moments before that dream became reality Wednesday afternoon in the Killeen field house office, there was only one thing on his mind.
“I’m feeling excited. I’m ready to go and officially be a Husky.”