It was clear at a young age that Darren Carrington Jr. was ahead of his peers in most athletic endeavors. During pre-kindergarten he was playing basketball with 2nd and 3rd graders. By midway through his freshman year at Horizon Christian Academy in San Diego he had been promoted to the varsity football team. Fast forward to 2012 where exploits on the football field, dedication in the classroom and the installation of strong morals at home have led to the opportunity to attend a number of well-regarded, division one universities on a football scholarship next fall.
The Carrington household began when Darren Carrington Sr. met his wife, Vickie, during their time together at Northern Arizona University. Darren Sr. spent eight years in the NFL with the Broncos, Lions, Chargers, Jaguars and Raiders. Vickie competed on the NAU track & field team. With their athletic backgrounds in mind it was clear that sports would be a point of emphasis for their children. Oldest daughter, DiArra, is currently a standout member of the New Orleans University women’s basketball team. Middle child, Darren Jr. (D2), excels on the football field, while youngest daughter, DiJonai, is set to star as a freshman for Horizon’s girls basketball team this winter.
As D2 has grown into one of the top high school wide receivers in the country he admits he hasn’t gotten there strictly on his own. There have been a number of individuals that have propelled him to where he is today. His high school coach, Chris Johnson, his father and his faith in God have been the biggest aids along the way.
Horizon’s high school coach, Chris Johnson, has been friends with Darren Sr. since D2 was a child. Coach Johnson’s unyielding encouragement and optimism have propelled Darren. “Know that you can do anything and there are great things in your future.” These lines of encouragement have instilled confidence in D2 and promise to remain with him throughout his life.
Carrington Jr. has also received continuous coaching and encouragement from his father but it is important to note that the relationship is a two way street. Carrington Sr. loves football and remembers his NFL experience fondly. However, when his own NFL successes are compared to the feelings experienced while watching his son perform, there is no comparison. “It gives me extra joy knowing that is my son out there applying things I have taught him and then putting his own spin on them. It gives me a little bit more joy than making the plays myself”.
Since retiring from the NFL Darren Sr. has moved into the role of marriage and family pastor at Rock Church in San Diego and thus faith in God is another large focus in the Carrington household. He instills in his children that “The Lord always gives us direction…By having him on your side you always know you have a chance.” D2 openly acknowledges that his faith in God plays a big role in his life, including on the football field. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now without God…I’ve been blessed that he allows me to do things that I have always been dreaming of.”
D2’s interests span well beyond the scope of athletics. “Even though I’ve just recently started, I really love music…I just learned how to play the piano. I’m learning how to play the guitar now…I really want to learn to produce beats on the computer.” When asked about his musical tastes one gets a different and much more eclectic answer than one might expect of a teenager from San Diego, “I really like country, so I’ve been listening to a lot of Darius Rucker (formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish) and Jesse James…I also love Kenny G on the saxophone.” These diverse musical interests bring a unique element to any group he is associated with.
Football though is D2’s first love. Raised in the home of a former NFL player he began playing at an early age and as previously mentioned, his development has led him to the brink of a scholarship from a division I football program.
Time spent honing his skills goes beyond the hours spent exclusively with Coach Johnson and his Horizon High teammates. Last summer D2 had the opportunity to attend a number of prestigious football camps available exclusively to the most talented high school athletes in the country. These included the Nike Football Training camp in Los Angeles, The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon and the Rivals 100 camp in Atlanta. These camps allowed D2 to compete against some of the best defensive backs in the country including Chris Hawkins of Rancho Cucamonga and Jalen Ramsey of Nashville, TN. It was against these elite peers that Carrington proved to major division I coaches that he had the skills to compete with the best in the country.
After receiving scholarship offers from a large number of prominent schools across the country, including California, Michigan, Northwestern and Vanderbilt among others, D2 took an unofficial visit in June to his long-time favorite, University of Oregon. “Oregon” has been written underneath the bathroom mirror in the Carrington home since 2009. At the time, Carrington’s cousin, Jairus Byrd, had just completed his junior season in Eugene and had declared early for the NFL Draft. In addition to Byrd’s positive experience, Oregon’s flashy uniforms as well as the pace of their offense were attention-grabbers. “Look good, play good. That’s how I feel and so I was attracted to them. They also play fast and I love that.” It was on his unofficial visit to Oregon that he made a verbal commitment to Chip Kelly and the Oregon coaches to attend in the fall of 2013.
The due diligence performed by the Oregon coaching staff throughout the recruiting process thoroughly impressed Carrington’s parents. According to Darren Sr. “Oregon’s recruiting process is miles above everyone else’s. Their process was a 4-5 month process from start to finish…They spoke with his teachers, counselors, and coaches…The idea is they want kids they can trust. If they can trust him to go to class then they can trust him to run the 10 yard out called in the huddle rather than cutting it short.” The number of scholarships Oregon offers also stood out to the elder Carrington, “They don’t have nearly as many offers out there as other schools. They are very selective in the kids they want.”
The combination of these factors led D2 to his decision to attend the University of Oregon in 2013. Carrington admits upon leaving Horizon he will miss its small school feel, where everyone knows each other and the teachers are always willing to put in extra time to help the students learn.
6 months from now it will be time for D2 to head out on his own, away from the family and friends he has known all his life. He realizes this will be difficult but will arrive prepared to work hard and exhibit dedication both in the classroom and on the football field. By the time he leaves the Oregon program Carrington plans to be “The best I can be and eventually, one day, be recognized as one of the best receivers ever to come out of Oregon.” It is this dedication and confidence that has driven the young man to this point and figures to elevate him to lofty heights in the future.