HAMILTON, Ohio -- Dillon Stone couldn’t imagine his life without family and football.
The Hamilton senior offensive lineman sleeps with a football in his bed. He watches “Friday Night Tykes" and follows the Cincinnati Bengals and Ohio State Buckeyes.
He loves to break down game film with high school teammates and coaches. He wants to study Sport Management in college and become a high school or college football coach.
The Big Blue standout guard signing to play college football with Urbana University (NCAA Division II) Wednesday morning on National Signing Day was yet another important step in his successful perseverance throughout high school with his adoptive family at his side.
Stone, 19, had a difficult home life as a youngster. He moved a lot and never really had a home.
He occasionally sees his biological mother and his four siblings. He knows less about his father.
But he hasn’t let the circumstances define him.
In eighth grade, Stone met a friend, Justin McWhorter, who he played basketball and football with him in middle school.
Dillon eventually moved in with the McWhorter family -- Alan and Tammy along with their sons, Justin and Tyler. The family received guardianship in March 2014.
“Since I moved in with them I’ve had people that wanted me to succeed and wanted me to go to school and get good grades and play sports,” Stone said. “Moving in with them really meant a lot.”
Tammy McWhorter can’t say enough about her eldest son. The family couldn’t imagine life without him.
“He made it easy,” McWhorter said. “He wanted to be different. He didn’t want to be another statistic so to speak. I saw something in him. He’s been a pleasure to have. He is a very appreciative kid. He wants better and I think he is well on his way to getting much better.”
Stone, who works at the Kroger in Fairfield as a courtesy clerk, was named a captain of the Big Blue his senior season. He’s volunteered with projects in the school district including a tutoring and mentoring program of elementary school students.
“He’s been a great role model for our kids in our school,” Hamilton Athletic Director Todd Grimm said. “He’s a very humble kid. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
A three-year starter for the Big Blue, Stone always had dreams of playing college football and Wednesday will be the first step on a new journey in fulfilling those aspirations.
“It’s going to be an emotional day just thinking about what I have done to get here and what I overcame,” Stone said.
Stone, who is 6 feet and 275 pounds, was first-team All-Greater Miami Conference his junior and senior seasons. He had 68 knockdowns in 2017, including nine versus visiting Oak Hills in early September.
He was named Division I first-team All-Southwest District and honorable mention All-Ohio as a senior. He played all five positions on the offensive line during his high school career.
He was named in January a recipient of the Anthony Muñoz Foundation’s “In the Trenches" Leadership Award.”
“He’s a phenomenal kid,” Hamilton coach Chad Murphy said. “He loves the game. He works his tail off.”
Murphy can’t recall Stone ever missing a day of practice or weightlifting. Stone was the No. 1 user of Hudl among the players. He’s almost like another coach on the field and in film study.
Stone said Murphy has been like a father figure to him.
“In 16 years of coaching, he’s probably one of my top five kids,” Murphy said. “He’s just a great kid.”
Hamilton offensive line coach Mike Dole had no doubts Stone would lead among his teammates during this past preseason. Dole’s mother died in early August and the coach missed some practice time.
Stone mourned for his coach and stepped in and led his teammates in his Dole’s absence.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Dole said. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy.”
Stone is also a student-athlete that teachers and administrators look to as a success story. He always has a smile on his face talking to his friends in the hallway.
“It’s hard not to like the kid,” Grimm said. “He’s a big teddy bear.”
Tammy McWhorter knows the feeling. Justin, a Hamilton senior, and Tyler, a Hamilton sophomore, have a close bond with Dillon.
Tammy said the family may have a special dinner to celebrate the signing Wednesday night.
Stone will sign at 9 a.m. at the high school before attending the Greater Miami Conference ceremony at Sharonville Convention Center at 1 p.m.
McWhorter never missed her son’s games at Hamilton and she certainly wouldn’t miss Wednesday’s events. She's already making plans for attending Urbana games next season.
“Words can’t describe how proud I am of him,” McWhorter said. “Every time I think he’s amazed me, something else happens and I am more amazed.”