Dylan Rebura figures one way for him to be quick on his feet is to be on his feet as much as possible.
The Nixa junior running back certainly has displayed an appetite for activity and lots of it. In addition to football, Rebura has suited up as an Eagle in wrestling and baseball and earlier this year picked up boxing for the first time.
“It keeps me on my feet and keeps me from distractions and bad stuff I don’t need to be around,” he said about keeping busy with sports.
Rebura figures boxing’s benefits are abundant and will correlate on the gridiron. He already saw the results during Nixa's team summer camp workouts.
“My footwork and conditioning are at a new level,” he said. “Boxing is a great opportunity for me to get stronger and more conditioned. It’s a whole new ball game. That’s the reason I started it.”
Rebura, who boxes out of Grappling Concepts in Nixa, stepped into the ring for the first time over the summer at a card in Jefferson City. As a 160-pounder, he lost by decision.
“It was fun for the most part,” Rebura said of his first fight. “It was a pretty good fight. I think I held my own. Getting hit (in boxing) is kind of similar to getting hit in football. But it’s more of a straight shot compared to putting your pads down and getting hit.”
The loss hasn’t deterred Rebura’s enthusiasm.
“I’m not going to step away from it. If I start something, I’m going to finish it, just like football,” he said. “(Boxing) might be a career I want to pursue. I think I can be pretty good at it. But football comes first.”
Rebura already has many firsts taken care of in regard to his football career. He made his first start as a freshman, after a slew of injuries in Nixa’s offensive backfield made coach John Perry go to Rebura at running back for a District semifinal at Joplin.
It’s a short list of freshman running backs at Nixa who have started as a freshman. Rebura fell in line with 2023 grad Ramone Green and 2015 grad Alec Murphy in that distinct category.
Rebura did as well as could be expected his first time out, responding with 34 yards rushing.
In addition to being a freshman and the post-season setting, the game carried extra significance for him due to his older brothers, Draven and Drew Van Gilder, starting for Joplin.
“Starting as a freshman was nerve-racking,” Rebura said. “It was awesome for me and my brothers were excited to see me out on the field. I was happy because it’s not an everyday thing to play (against) your brothers.”
The VanGilders were Nixa products themselves until they reached high school. They made the move with their father to Joplin and were standouts during their prep careers. They are now freshmen playing at Truman State.
Rebura figures his brothers were a big reason why he was able to handle varsity ball at such a young age.
“Growing up, they were hard on me,” he said. “I’m grateful for them because without them I don’t think I would be as tough as I am today.”
Over the off-season, Rebura experienced a growth spurt. He went from 5-foot-6 to 5-8 and is pushing 5-9. Naturally, he’s enjoyed the feeling of being bigger.
“I feel more confident hitting the holes now and I’m blocking better,” he said.
Rebura enters this season as Nixa’s undisputed feature back. With Green now at Missouri State, the great majority of carries are expected to go to Rebura.
Perry started the Rebura hype train a year ago by proclaiming Green ought to run for as many yards as he can because Rebura will be chasing his records.
In a backup role last year, Rebura ran the ball 54 times for 485 yards, an average of nine yards a carry, and nine touchdowns.
With practices officially kicking off next week, Rebura is primed for a long-awaited breakout year.
“With Ramone, I have big shoes to fill,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting. I want to step up for the team. I’m ready.”