Westview's Darrius Clemons is the big man, but on what campus?
Westview's Darrius Clemons has a bright future on the gridiron.
But right now, he's thinking about what is right in front of him.
"I want to win a state championship with my teammates," said Clemons, a standout receiver with the Wildcats. "I think we definitely have a team that can do it."
The 6-foot-3 wideout is the No. 20-ranked receiver in the country by the recruiting service 247 Sports and is widely considered the top college football prospect in the state. He holds offers from 35 of the country's top schools — including Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame, to name a few — although he says he's narrowed his choice down to Auburn, Penn State or Oregon.
While where he goes to college is an undoubtedly important decision, Clemons is more focused on the season at hand in high school.
"I'm still dealing with last Friday's loss to Jesuit," he said in an interview Sept. 27. "That stung. But we all talked about it after the game, and we all agreed we beat ourselves, and that if we get another shot at them, it will be a different outcome."
Football is in Clemons' blood. His father, Larry, played receiver at Florida under legendary coach Steve Spurrier in the late 1990s. He's used that experience to nurture and teach Darrius to compete both on and off of the field. The younger Clemons said his dad never "took it easy" on him growing up — so he appreciates the work necessary to get what you want in the competitive arena.
"It's where my competitive nature comes from," Darrius Clemons said. "My dad never let me win, and it made winning that much more fun when I did. Plus, it's important to take something from a loss, be accountable and find out what you can improve on. Without failure, it's hard to learn how to succeed."
Clemons said his priorities are "faith, family, then football," so his head is in the right place. Of course that's not to say he doesn't love the sport that's already provided him so much — memorable plays, games and the experience of being part of a team.
"There's something about competing with a group of people and some of your best friends," he said. "To hang out with them every day in practice and give the blood, sweat and tears — you just can't get that a lot of places."
Clemons said he likes watching receivers like the New Orleans Saints' Michael Thomas, Seattle Seahawks' D.K. Metcalf, and longtime Atlanta Falcons and current Tennessee Titans receiver Julio Jones. Because of his size, he gets a lot of comparisons to the latter two.
But he believes his greatest asset might actually be his speed.
"I'm a lot faster than people give me credit for," Clemons said. "I'm still working on it, too, but there's a lot of other things I can improve upon as well. That's why I love working in practice with my teammates, because you can always get better."
Westview head coach Ryan Atkinson believes it's that attitude that makes Clemons such a good leader.
"What I'm most proud about him is not necessarily what he does on the field, it's what he does off the field," Coach Ryan Atkinson told KOIN 6 News recently. "He does things that leaders do, and he'll have a great career because of that. He's a hard worker and he takes care of his business."
Despite his growing aptitude, Clemens says leading doesn't come naturally to him. He considers himself a somewhat quiet individual, but he understands the value in leading both vocally and by example, and he has tried more aptly to fill that role.
"I'm naturally a kind of reserved person, so being outspoken wasn't something I was comfortable with a first," Clemons said. "But I understand that in order for our team to accomplish the goals we have, that's something I have to do."
He expects he will need to fill that type of role in the locker room, whether as a Tiger, a Nittany Lion or a Duck. He also has his education in mind, so while the schools he's looking at have storied football programs, they're also fine institutes of learning.
Certainly, Clemons said, he would like to someday play in the NFL. But if that dream fails to materialize, he hopes to work somewhere, doing something, in sports.
But in the meantime, it's all Westview all the time. He's hoping the road leads back to state power Jesuit this season — where he foresees a different result than the one last Friday night.
"That's a great, great team," Clemons said. "The Rincon twins (Michael and Matthew) balled out, they have a great coach and a great ballclub, but I think they even know they got a little bit lucky."
Maybe time will tell.
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