A wide receiver in the Brazos Valley has garnered national attention with his record-setting junior season and dazzling, highlight-reel catches.
Tren’Davian Dickson’s 39 touchdown catches in 2014 shattered the old state and national records. His remarkable catches in Navasota’s state championship game have made all the major national sports highlight shows. He was named the MaxPreps.com Junior All-American Player of the Year.
The wide receiver coach helping him make his progress is none other than a former Aggie walk-on wide receiver, an undersized player with the determination of the Little Engine That Could.
Gaston Lamascus never had the body of a Big 12 or SEC wide receiver, but he had a heart the size of their stadiums. He seldom saw the playing field, but he did win the final walk-on scholarship his senior year after fall camp in 2013.
Fast forward one year to his first year of coaching. After working five years at wide receiver in college, catching passes from both Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel, Lamascus found himself as an assistant coach at his alma mater Navasota High School, just a 20-minute drive from College Station.
Lamascus now has one of the most impressive resumes any first-year assistant could have. It’s not just because the Navasota Rattlers went 16-0 and won the Texas Class 4A Division I State Championship. It’s because of one of his pupils who set a national receiving record.
Junior Tren’Davian Dickson set the state record during the third round of the playoffs when he caught his 34th touchdown of the season, breaking the old record of 33 set in 1987. His 34 tied him with the national record. Navasota played three more rounds, and Dickson finished the season with a mind-boggling 39 touchdown catches, setting the bar for both state and national receivers.
“I’ve been able to teach him some things I learned in college,” Lamascus said. “He’s a great talent, but he’s very coachable.”
One might think Lamascus could have some say or sway into getting Dickson to College Station, but Dickson is now set on Baylor, where he verbally committed last summer.
“We haven’t talked about it, and I’m not even sure what the rules are about recruiting,” Lamascus said. “I’m an alumnus, so I’m not sure if that would be some sort of violation or not.”
Lamascus works directly with the wide receivers, drilling footwork, executing routes, getting off routes and working with a scrambling quarterback, looking the ball in and, of course, taking care of it afterwards.
The players have learned from Lamascus’ hard work from an undersized Navasota Rattler to a college wide receiver.
Lamascus, who’s had the nickname Gator since he was 5, didn’t get many looks from college football coaches after his playing days were finished at Navasota. He left town 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds at best. He then became one of the smallest football players in the mighty Southeastern Conference, clearly the best and most dominant football conference in the country.
“I grew up coming to the games and loving football,” Lamascus said. “Being on scholarship was one of my goals.”
His story played out somewhat like the movie Rudy. He was undersized and not the fastest guy on the team, but he stuck it out for four years, battling guys much bigger, stronger and faster than him. He worked in the weight room and kept up with all the punishing conditioning drills. He brought his grades back up after falling behind his freshman year.
He got on the field in A&M’s first-ever SEC game and made a catch in the second quarter against the University of Florida Gators — a nationally-televised game that also had ESPN’s College Game Day in attendance.
Gaston’s roommates had taken a photo of the walk-on player and plastered it on a giant piece of cardboard attached to a stick. During the national pregame show that makes its way to a college campus each week, the roommates raised the picture of Gaston behind the announcers as they did their show. On the back of the sign, it read: Our Gator is Better Than Your Gator!
His first time to see the field in uniform was his redshirt sophomore year at home against the Kansas Jayhawks. He went to four bowl games, was on the sideline for the team’s huge upset of then-No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10, 2012, in Tuscaloosa and was part of the team’s come from behind win at Ole Miss in 2012.
“At Ole Miss we came from behind in the last moments and the locker room after the game was crazy,” Lamascus said.
Lamascus got some help getting his foot in the door at the university. Former Rattler Brandel Jackson was a receiver at A&M who put in a good word with then coach Mike Sherman, who also got good recommendations from Navasota coach Lee Fedora.
“What’s funny is that coach Sherman always got a haircut from my dad on Wednesdays, and my dad kind of threw Gator’s name to coach Sherman,” Fedora said. “He said he’s not the biggest kid, but he’s going to do everything and my dad was dead on.”
Sherman took the barber’s word, and contacted Fedora down in Navasota.
“What I told coach Sherman about Gator was, ‘Coach, he’s not going to mind if he has to be a walk-on, he’ll go out there and play receiver for you, he’ll deep snap for you and he’ll drive a bus for you,’” Fedora said. “It doesn’t matter, he’s going to give 100 percent effort to the team.”
So Sherman took a chance.
Once there, Lamascus got the dubious task of playing on the scout team offense, meaning he would run the offensive plays of that week’s opponents against the first-team Aggie defense. He ran crossing routes and other pass patterns against Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart, both eventual linebackers in the NFL.
“I felt like they could kill me if they wanted to,” said Lamascus, who also made a slip block against now-Denver Bronco Von Miller, the defensive end who was the overall No. 2 NFL draft pick in 2012.
Lamascus often came back to Navasota to help coach the school’s 7-on-7 summer team (actual high school coaches are prohibited from coaching 7-on-7). The kids called him Gator, but that changed when Fedora hired him full-time.
“I said no one calls him Gator anymore, he’s now Coach Lamascus,” Fedora said.
A coach with an already great resume and nowhere to go but up from here.