Player Profile: Doublewide's Dan Emmons

Posted: October 25, 2013 01:45 PM

Daniel Emmons, like many other ultimate converts, had a prior athletic background, only the transition was a bit more unexpected. He entered the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) in 2006 as a redshirt walk-on for the basketball team. While participating in a recreational 3v3 tournament – and after dunking on some poor, unfortunate neophyte – Emmons was approached by an unknown onlooker. The two engaged in a conversation that’s become all too familiar in our world.

Dan Emmons

"Hey man, you should play ultimate."

"What is ultimate?"

North Texas’ ultimate practice was where Emmons would meet Kevin Richardson and another recent recruit, Jacob Anderson. Emmons would have no way of knowing at the time that these two would have an incredible presence and influence on his ultimate career.

Even at the very start, there would be no coddling Emmons. Richardson made sure the two were matched up frequently at practice and would always instruct his handlers to put the disc deep. Every time the pair went in pursuit – or "ten times out of ten" as Emmons puts it – Richardson would school him.

Unbroken, Emmons kept attending practice, for the sake of his ego and competitive nature if nothing else. But he still remained unsure of where his future as an athlete was headed. The picture became clearer during a tournament trip to California. There, North Texas had the fortune of being placed in an evening feature game against California-Santa Barbara.

"It’s not like the stands are packed like at a college football game, but every ultimate team for the most part that had been at that tourney came to watch that showcase game. And you look up at the stands at 7 o’clock at night, and there are hundreds of people all around you screaming, maybe a thousand who knows? It was just a different experience. And I had already been pretty confident that that was something I wanted to do, but I feel like after that moment was when I really fell in love with the game," Emmons recalled.

Now feeling confident in where his path was heading, Emmons left behind the opportunity to play Division I NCAA basketball for a full-time pursuit of ultimate. The following season, Emmons’ decision quickly resulted in the best form of validation possible. North Texas clinched a berth to the 2008 College Championships, their first and only appearance to date. Said Emmons of the journey, "Those are the guys that brought me into the game, showed me everything and taught me how to be a player. And to make it to that kind of level with those guys…it was a dream."

It was a hilly road for some time following their appearance at 2008 Nationals. The 2009 College Series left expectations unfulfilled as UNT fell short of a return trip to the Championships. (Captain Kevin Richardson missed Regionals due to a sudden bout of appendicitis. To this day, alumni from that roster will tell you that, at full strength, they would have easily qualified). Life’s circumstances and myriad injuries (including ACL and MCL tears) prevented Emmons from completing his college ultimate career, missing out on two years’ worth of eligibility.

Emmons still managed to piece himself together enough to play a few club seasons in the following years around the Dallas area, including a season with Dallas Plex in 2011. Come 2012, however, playing for several years at less than 100 percent had taken its toll, and he shut himself down from any play (save for some light post-season play in the mixed division).

The summer of 2013 began a new chapter in Dan Emmons’ career. Healthy, prepared for the financial demands of being a commuting player, and eager to play at the highest level, he successfully tried out for then-defending champions, Austin Doublewide. Nearly seven years removed from his college rookie season, he would be reunited with teammates Jacob Anderson and Kevin Richardson, only this time in pursuit of even greater heights.

In addition to old friends, Emmons was now teamed up with a handful of former rivals, including Andrew Walch from of Texas State University and captain Jeff Loskorn from the University of Texas, among others. Although known for making splashy, out-of-state acquisitions, Doublewide still reflects the elite of Texas college ultimate, past and present. The history has made for good conversation in reminiscing stories of old battles. To this day, some sort of awkward, permanent inflammation remains on Emmons’ leg where Loskorn cleated him in the finals of the 2009 Texas Open College Sectionals. Loskorn and company took that game 15-12)

The team was not all together on the field right away, as is typical of many club rosters in the regular season. But once Emmons finally saw himself standing amongst more or less the entire charismatic, star-studded Doublewide cast, it was both elating and a motivator for him.

"There’s that one time you kind of sit back and think ‘Oh my gosh, this is where I’m at now, this is the level that I’m at.’ But when the game starts, all of that just kind of disappears, you know? I’m just out there trying to make plays, to help my team, to do what I need to help my team be successful. So, in a sense, it dawns on you like ‘Wow this is really happening,’ but at the same time, this is where I belong. Hopefully my play…has been able to hold up to that."

It would certainly seem that way. Spectators and analysts alike took note of his on-field contributions throughout the season. Towering at an athletic 6’5" with a solid ultimate IQ to boot, Emmons seems to blend seamlessly into the mold we’ve come to expect from Doublewide. Defensively, opponents have their work cut out for them to comfortably secure the disc. As for that vertical stack Doublewide carries in its arsenal, Emmons has been dicing up defenders in that system since career day one. He’s an additional presence to a roster that at any given moment can become an overwhelming force. Most importantly, however, he fully takes to heart his role on the squad. You might even say he relishes it. "I never have to overexert myself or do anything different than what’s the best part of my game. And I feel the best part of my game is being a tall, athletic guy who can make plays defensively and on a turn try to utilize the turn and go score….I never need to try to go outside of my game, which in my opinion helps me to be successful," said Emmons.

One of his finer displays came early in the National Championships pre-quarterfinal round versus Toronto GOAT. Toronto with the disc, Emmons’ assignment faked deep before making a sharp in-cut. Emmons was a tad late to react, but his downhill strides and recovery speed kept him close. As the disc was thrown, he managed to gain the inside track just in time to layout for a clean denial. Following a stoppage of play, Kurt Gibson found Emmons on a huck in the end zone for the game’s first break, followed by an absolute explosion of emotion on his part as his teammates rushed to him. One teammate skied in the air with Emmons for a good old-fashioned chest bump. It was perhaps one of the most memorable sets of bookends in his career, and it got the ball rolling on the way to a 14-11 Doublewide win.

Emotion and anticipation had been pent up inside Emmons in the days leading up to the Championships. For he, like only a handful of others, had the unique position last weekend of playing in front of his hometown crowd. He was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. It is where his game would flourish into what it is today. With the tournament still on the horizon, Emmons conveyed just how profound he expected the experience would be:

"It’s exciting in a way that words can’t even describe. A lot of members of my family have never seen me play ultimate; a lot of friends that I’ve known since childhood have never seen me play ultimate. They’ve never really seen ultimate at all. To be able to experience Nationals at the club level for the first time, but to do it in front of my friends, family, people I’ve known my entire life, it’s just an experience I can’t even describe. It’s two days before the tournament, and I find myself already spacing out at work thinking about it. It’s surreal in a way. I can’t wait."

Despite Doublewide’s eventual fifth-place finish, Emmons and his squad certainly did their loved ones proud in a valiant defense of their 2012 crown. As Championship Weekend approached, the host city was buzzing about all of its to-be-showcased hometown products, and they walked away from it with fond reflection and inspiration. Perhaps a day will come when Emmons and others will return home to bring more direct glory to their own backyard, but for now it’s safe to say he’s focused on the business left unfinished this season. Doublewide as a program may have one club championship notch on its belt, but not Emmons, not just yet.

Still, he believes the DFW ultimate community is fully capable of getting over the hump and cementing a consistent place in the national conversation. He places a great deal of the burden simply on the approach to preparation. "It’s not necessarily to say that one team is more athletic than the other. Yeah, obviously there’s a bit of a talent difference, but it’s just that mindset, its having the right mind going into a season, going into a tournament, going into workouts, its everything that you do," he stated.

By all means, Dan Emmons can attest to his own mantra. Consistent mentality has undoubtedly been a crucial element to his game. Whether it was proving his worth to teammates, facing elite opposition or battling through hampering injuries, it was his mentality that kept him poised to eventually play at the highest level. It came as a result of boundless effort and that one seemingly unimportant decision all those years ago, but it has certainly paid off. He is now one of the few athletes in the world who can say that he goes to battle with a unique sort of brotherhood – the Well Nasty Brotherhood to be precise. Right where he belongs. 

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