Patton made his decision final on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at a noon press conference at the Youngstown Sports Grille in Boardman. Early in the recruiting process, Patton was on the verge of signing with the University of Cincinnati, but a coaching change at Pitt helped persuade Patton to play there.
“My original decision was to go to Cincinnati,” Patton explained in a one on one interview. “When coach (Todd) Graham was hired (at Pitt) he made a late push to get me. I was never recruited hard (by Pitt) until coach Graham got there.”
Graham replaced Michael Haywood who was first chosen to take over the reins at Pitt, but had to resign early due to personal problems. The chance for Patton to play for Graham was great, but the added bonus was that he will only be an hour away from Poland.
“I like that I will be close to home,” said Patton honestly. “I am familiar with the Pittsburgh area because I used to live over there. My family is happy that I am close. This is such an exciting day for me.”
Excitement is one thing Patton brought to the field with him each Friday in Poland. Every time Darius, who has been clocked at 4.3 in 40-yard dash, touched the football, whether it was as a receiver, kick returner or defensive back, he was a threat to score a touchdown. Thanks to his two-year total of 90 catches for over 1,500 yards and 14 total touchdowns, the five-foot, 10-inch, 170-pound Patton will play slot receiver at Pitt. That speed is something that may get the soon-to-be freshman on the field quicker than most other rookies.
“I have a great chance to play as a freshman either in the slot or as a kick or punt returner,” Patton announced. “I can’t be one dimensional. Playing as a freshman is more about mentality than it is physicality. Playing early will be a benefit.”
One of the achievements Darius hopes to attain in his college career is to get enough quality playing time to impress NFL scouts. It may be a long time before Patton has a chance to play for pay, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.
“I always wanted to play in the NFL,” said Patton with a distinct twinkle in his eyes. “That has been my goal all my life.”
Playing in the pros is something plenty of Panthers have succeeded in doing over the years. Patton is very aware of the great tradition the Pitt program has and was awed by it when he went on his recruiting visit.
“When you walk through the halls you see the jerseys of all the great players,” he said sounding like a true fan. “From Tony Dorsett to Darrelle Revis to Dan Marino there have been some great players (at Pitt). I hope to one day join them.”
Just in case Darius’ professional hopes are dashed he will always have his schoolwork to fall back on. Patton is a very serious student and he aspires to study Kinesiology in college.
“Kinesiology is something that is close to what I know already,” he said.
Patton also knows that he could not be headed to such a fine university if it wasn’t for the lessons he learned while at Poland. The inner strength he developed was because the Poland community always encouraged him to do his best.
“It helped tremendously,” Darius declared. “We have such a family atmosphere at Poland. I give thanks to all the people who supported me. They gave me such a great opportunity now I hope I can give back.”
Perhaps one of the ways Patton will give back is when he represents Poland in the annual PNC Big 33 all star game in June in Hershey, Pa. This prestigious honor does not get bestowed on just anyone as Patton is one of only two local players to be chosen to play in Pa (Akise Teague of Ursuline is the other). Of course, that trip to Hershey is just a stepping stone for Darius. A potentially perfect career at Pitt is Patton’s first piece to the puzzle with a long, exciting career in the NFL the ultimate pinnacle.
Photo by Nik Zirounis, Town Crier correspondent
Darius Patton didn’t let a little thing like bad weather stop him from signing to play for the University of Pittsburgh on Feb. 2.