Darrius Heyward-Bey first began playing football as a freshman in high school. He played on the JV squad as a freshman and earned the attention of the coaches, albeit probably not in the way he envisioned.
“I was actually late for my first-ever practice,” Heyward-Bey said. “We had to run laps because of me. I was way ahead of the other guys and I wasn’t getting tired. I knew I had to make up for being late. Running laps was my fault, so I had to show the rest of the guys I was serious about playing. The coaches saw how fast I was and they were impressed.”
Though he possessed tremendous speed, Heyward-Bey did not see significant playing time until his junior season last year. McDonogh Head Coach Dominic Damico told him to practice hard following a sophomore season where he hardly saw the field.
“As a sophomore I didn’t see a lot of playing time because my hands weren’t that great,” Heyward-Bey said. “Coach Dom told me to work hard on my game and I could get more playing time the next season. I’m the type of guy that when someone says something like that, I’ll respond. I worked hard and had by far my best year last year.”
As a junior, Heyward-Bey made around 12 touchdown receptions according to Coach Damico. Over the past three years, the 6-3, 195 pound receiver feels he has improved significantly as a complete receiver. Heyward-Bey does acknowledge the areas he needs to improve as well.
“I think I have done real good for only playing football for three years,” Heyward-Bey said. “I’ve gotten used to it. Early on I used my speed to compensate for my lack of experience. My speed helps me so much out there. In the open field, I think I can out run anyone.
“I need to improve my route-running and catching the ball in traffic. Those are the only things I think I need to work on. My speed and size are all right.”
A physical specimen, Heyward-Bey certainly has the physical attributes and athleticism to impress any Division I-A college coach. In addition to size, he possesses a 40-inch vertical leap and was timed at 4.38 in the 40 yard dash during the Nike Combine in Charlottesville, Virginia. Coach Damico said Heyward-Bey has run a hand-timed 10.2 in the 100 meters.
Currently, 12 schools have officially offered scholarships. Included on that list are Alabama (Heyward-Bey ran a 4.4 flat during a recent camp), Boston College, Marshall, Maryland, Penn State, and Virginia. He lists no favorites among the schools involved.
“Not really,” Heyward-Bey said when asked if he had any favorites. “Everybody’s average. I’m keeping everything open. I’ll see what happens by the end of the summer and go from there. Then I’ll cut my list to a top three, four, or five, because some of the schools have to go or else it will get too confusing. I plan on taking at least one official visit before I decide.”
There are a few schools who Heyward-Bey would like to hear more from, and they are Virginia Tech and Florida. Tech has shown some interest but has not yet offered.
“Some schools I’m interested in that haven’t contacted me that much are Virginia Tech and Florida,” Heyward-Bey said. “These are like my dream schools. I’d be pretty happy if they offered, but at the same time they would go in the same pool as the others. For example, me and my best friend always said we would go to Penn State when we were growing up. Well, Penn State has offered, but they are right there with the rest of the teams. I have to look at everything.”
Of the schools recruiting him, Maryland and Alabama were noted as the programs who seem to be recruiting the hardest.
“The schools recruiting me real hard are Maryland and Alabama,” Heyward-Bey said. “Everybody else is recruiting me well, but these two schools really are after me.”
When decision-time comes, Heyward-Bey will focus on which programs offer a good academic support system for athletes as well as comfort level with the coaching staffs.
“First of all, there has to be a good student-support system in place to help athletes graduate,” Heyward-Bey said. “If they don’t have that, then they don’t have me. It’s really important for me to graduate. I’m also looking for a coaching staff with great personalities. I want to be comfortable with them. So far I’ve been real comfortable with all of the coaches I’ve met. I haven’t felt pressured. I’ve had great experiences with the schools I’ve visited – Maryland, UVa, and Alabama. It’s been great so far.”
Location will likely not be much of a factor here.
“Location is not a big factor,” Heyward-Bey said. “Maryland is like ten minutes away from me, which would give me a chance to see my mother whenever I wanted to or see my friends. At...
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