Dillard would not strike you as a professor in academia at first glance. Sitting in his office chair, wearing a polo shirt with jeans and sneakers, hair hanging past his shoulders, is a surprising sight to see for someone expecting to talk to someone who is responsible for others education.
Dillard is not new to the stereotypes of how he should conduct himself and how he is expected to look based on his career and educational level. Born into a family of lawyers in Dallas, his family made sure he went to one of the top schools in Texas, Highland Park High School. Dillard described the school as being very conformist and full of white people. Dillard said you were expected to act a certain way, participate in school functions and contribute to the community
“You acted like a f—–g boy scout basically all day, every day,” Dillard said.
Dillard said growing up, expected to act a certain way within his own family and the community, made him determined to change this stereotype. He said high school was the prime opportunity to start changing his ways. Dillard said making poor grades was the first thing that started to reflect the new changes.
By the time he graduated high school, he was at the bottom of the GPA chain in his class. Dillard said the only thing he kept pursuing and did the best he could in, was football.
“Amongst the changes I was doing, football remained the same because this was how I was going to break free from Dallas,” Dillard said.
Dillard played defensive end, number 89, and was determined to use football as his way out. Weighing in at around 200 pounds, Dillard proved to be a good football player.
“I only went to college because it gave me a chance to play division one football,” Dillard said.
Dillard said playing Division I football was a way to open up many doors to exciting and new things.
“College recruiters started to notice me and came out to the games in order to watch me,” he said.
Dillard said he was beginning to see what football was offering him, an opportunity to go to college.
“Even though I played football because all of the white American boys were playing it at Highland, and I was not one to do what others do, I could see it was opening up new doors for me to explore,” Dillard said.
Dillard was recruited to play for the Army football team at the United States Military Academy, known as West Point in New York. Dillard said this university is the top military academy school in the nation.
“Many people who know me ask me how the hell I got into the top cadet military school in the nation and I say because I was a football god,” Dillard said.
Dillard played division one football and continued to strive to be the best football player he could be. Dillard said they were a team others feared.
“Back in my day, Army beat Navy,” Dillard said.
Dillard boasts his ego while talking about the Army and Navy football teams of today when he said now Army loses to Navy because he is not on the team anymore. Dillard went on to play for Army in the Independence bowl of 1996 against Auburn. Even though Army was not able to get final 3-point field goal, losing to Auburn with a score of 32-29, Dillard treasures his bowl ring.
“I have a bowl ring and people are like how many professors get to say they have a bowl ring?” Dillard said. “Just being able to take part in the bowl and get my ring even though we lost is an accomplishment in itself.”
Dillard said when he talks about his bowl ring, some people ask him if he really deserved it because the team lost.
“I tell them ‘hell yes, I deserved the ring because I paid for it with my own sweat, blood and tears’,” Dillard said.
Dillard continued to play football for West Point until he graduated with a bachelors in history in 1996. Dillard said he still did not have a good GPA and was still using football to get him to better opportunities.
“Being 200 pounds because of football, helped me out when I decided to go into the Army after graduation because I was able to make it through basic training and not puke,” Dillard said.
After completing basic training, Dillard pursued a career which is regarded to be highly respectable, even though he said he was not a good cadet and skimmed through boot camp, He became an Army Officer.
“People who know me from West Point ask me why I went into the Army because I was not that good of a cadet nor a student,” Dillard said. “I tell them because the military takes idiots.”
Dillard said being in the Army opened even more doors to new and exciting things. Dillard started to get his act together.
“The Army really showed me what was important to me which was making something of myself,” Dillard said.
Dillard said the Army also gave him the opportunity to travel all over the country. Dillard traveled the world, spending time in areas such as Africa and Europe. Dillard said the traveling made his job fun.
“If it wasn’t for the traveling, I think I would have asked to be honorably discharged,” Dillard said.
Dillard decided he wanted to shift his focus to helping the war on terror because he wanted to contribute to something bigger than himself.
“I was really thinking about what I wanted to do to further my career in the Army, so I thought I would put in my two cents on the war on terror because it is bigger than myself and I wanted to be a part of it,” Dillard said.
Dillard continued his career as an Army Officer until 2005. He said he then requested to be sent somewhere where he can began his contribution to the abolishment on terror. Dillard was sent to Asia where he became a Security Officer Assistant. Dillard said this job was a fancy name for a legalized gun runner between their government and ours. He said this job is what got him interested in internal affairs which would then become his research during his master’s degree.
“Because I decided to take a hold on my life, I decided to go back to school and be a professor because I felt like it was a good idea at the time,” Dillard said. “I was still somewhat young and single, and I was looking for something new at the time.”
Dillard left the military to pursue a master’s degree at Texas Tech in 2010. There he continued his passion for internal affairs.
“Internal affairs became my thesis for my master’s,” Dillard said.
During his master’s, Dillard’s adviser told him it would be easier if he switched to the PhD track because he would get done sooner. He said he thought this was a good idea. Dillard graduated with a Ph.D. in political science with a focus in international relations in 2012.
“Something good came out of it besides the degree and my job, I met my wife,” Dillard said.
Dillard and his wife got married after graduation, both pursuing a career in academia.
“After many job searches, we both ended up here in Corpus Christi,” Dillard said.
Dillard became an assistant professor in political science at the Island University, and his wife became an adjunct professor at Del Mar College, also teaching political science.
“We plan to stay in Corpus because I am now applicable for tenure and my wife has now become an assistant professor,” Dillard said.
Dillard said they are rooted in Corpus Christi and they want to retire here. Dillard continues his passion for wanting to contribute to something good. One of Dillard’s main passions for the common good is helping veterans. Dillard made an organization called the Green Zone Veterans Friendly Area of Operations at the Island University, to help veterans in any way they may need help.
“Having an area at the university where veterans can be assisted and helped, and teaching others how to help them is vary enriching,” Dillard said.
Dillard’s passion for helping others also extends outside of the university.
“Jeff is always on the lookout for helping others,” said Cory Mathews, owner of Lazy Beach Brewery.
Mathews and Dillard have been friends for three years and both share a passion to help others.
“Jeff came into the brewery one day looking for some beer to buy for a party of some sort, and we started to talk about the current fundraiser was going to take place,” Mathews said. “Things went from there.”
Mathews said Dillard keeps busy with functions and fundraisers and wonders how he finds the time.
“It amazes me how many fundraisers Jeff participates in, especially the ones are hosted here,” Mathew’s said. “He practically lives here.”
Mathews said Dillard wants to bring communities together and make sure those within the community are taken care of, especially veterans.
“He’s very into civic pride,” Mathews said.
The Corpus Christi Art Walk is a function Dillard attends every first Friday of the month. One of Dillard’s hobbies is being a musician. He is a guitar player for his band called Bent Johnsons.
“The band is named for the sole purpose to be a good ole’ dick joke,” Dillard said.
His band regularly plays alongside the Ward Island Wannabes, a band comprised of professors and students, from the Island University, to assist in crowd entertainment.
“We play because we feel like music makes people come out to functions because people love music,” said Tommy Reyna, a guitar player for the Ward Island Wannabes and a student at the Island University, pursuing a double major in nursing and art.
“Jeff asked me to be a part of the Wannabes because I was a musician just wanting to play music with a good group of people,” Reyna said.
Reyna said Dillard had conversations with him about helping others. He said Dillard expressed passion about how helping others has enriched his life and how music has helped him to reach out to those in need.
“I was so touched the bands gave their tips to others to help them. I wanted to be a part of this because it was a part of something bigger, making things better,” Reyna said.
Reyna continues to play with the Wannabes and is often seen playing alongside Dillard.
“Jeff is a breath of fresh air, even though he may look like a metal head and he smells a little,” Reyna said.
Dillard said appearances do not make a human being. He said all he heard about growing up was appearances and how appearances make the man you want to become. Dillard said this was bogus.
“How someone looks does not determine how they are on the inside,” Dillard said. “I did not look like a good cadet. I didn’t even look like a good soldier, but I was a good Army Officer regardless.”
Dillard laughed when he said he didn’t even look like a good football player because no one could tell he weighed 200 pounds. He said regardless of his appearance, he is happy with what he has been able to accomplish.
“I accomplished a lot of things even though I don’t look like it,” Dillard said. “I consider my life to be very enriching and a life I would not change. Bottom line is this… if someone comments on the way you look in a bad way, tell them to go to hell.”