One of the Class of 2014s Best Defensive Ends: Darius Slade Talks Michigan State
Q: I heard from someone at his school, “Darius is a great kid, but he better make the NFL because he eats more than any three human beings I’ve ever seen in my life.” Welcome from Montclair, NJ…Darius Slade. Darius, what do you think of that?
A: Oh man. That’s great. I got a lot of friends like that, a lot of friends in Montclair. They look at my size, my athleticism, and they definitely say things like that. But that was definitely great. That’s funny though. I’m pretty sure I know who that was though.
Q: One lady told me if she was your mom she would never buy groceries. She would take you to an all-you-can-eat buffet every day. That says a lot about you.
A: Oh man. Yeah.
Q: Everybody I talked to said you don’t walk around like a super-star football player, you engage everyone. Talk about that.
A: Yeah. I’m a very down-to-earth, humble guy. I’m a Christian man. And I love the game of football. That’s me in a nutshell. I love to be outside with friends. I love to train…it’s fun. I love to sweat, I love the good hard work. That’s something I love doing. I definitely take academics and football very seriously. That’s how I was born, how I was raised and that’s just how I am.
Q: Have you gotten to spend much time with MSU Head Coach Mark Dantonio?
A: No, I haven’t. I plan to, though.
Q: He’s very open about his faith. This staff is very open about that fact. Does that matter to you in recruiting?
A: I look for great coaching, a place where I fit in, somewhere where I can get a great education. Part of fitting in is definitely going somewhere where my faith is being tested. Not so much, but that’s definitely something great to hear. That’s definitely just lifted my spirits up, hearing that Coach Dantonio is like that. That’s great, that’s great.
Q: Anybody can talk about how fast you are and such, but I wanna dig in and get to know you personally.
Q: What is it about your family that’s made you the man you are?
A: My family is definitely football-based. Our genetics are very huge. I rarely have any cousins that are under 6 feet tall. My uncles, my aunts, my mom, my dad… My mom herself is 6 foot and my dad is about 6’6″-6’7″. So genetics is crazy. We’re all tall, we’re all big and we’re all athletic. I got a cousin, Jared Odrick, he’s in the NFL. He plays for the Miami Dolphins. Julian Pinnix-Odrick plays for Rutgers. Very ripped player, very big. A great player. Kamani Odrick is a senior linebacker here at Montclair now. He’s graduating in 2013 and will be playing for Stony Brook Seawolves next year. He’s about 6’1″-6’2″. Great player. So my family is very athletic, very football-based. We all know a lot. It just keeps coming along…my brother is 13 now and he’s almost at 6 foot.
Q: I bet I’m the only media guy that’s gonna interview you that’s a lot bigger?
Q: I bet you and I could do some damage at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets. Going in a different direction… You study as hard for exams as you work in practice for championship play-off games
A: I’m not a student where I can just know my work. I have to really dig deep and I’ve really gotta study for it. I definitely take academics seriously. My grades back in Delaware, they weren’t so great. When I first came up here a lot of coaches were very worried about my grades. I definitely had to take academics very seriously. I came up here and studied my butt off. I practiced hard and great things came. So I definitely bust my behind in the classroom. I gotta study. And I keep studying and I keep working hard.
Q: When I watch you play you remind me a lot of the late Reggie White. In all my years of doing this I’ve never said that to a high school kid. I hope you take that as a compliment.
A: I most absolutely do. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Q: When you watch guys play, who do you think you remind yourself of?
A: There’s numerous players. There’s players I look up to as an athlete. One of them is Ray Lewis. He’s a very great player, very great guy. He’s very energetic. He’s loud on the field. He doesn’t like to be quiet. He plays with a sense of urgency. I tend to want to play like that going into next year. I tried to play like that last year. I talk trash but I play smart though. I play smart. Sometimes you just gotta get down and do your dirty work. I definitely take the initiative to go out there and do exactly what that is.
Q: Have you been on campus at Michigan State yet?
A: Not yet. That’s definitely gonna be in the plans. That’s definitely gonna happen. It hasn’t yet, but that’s definitely gonna happen. Most definitely.
Q: Do you have a time frame in which you wanna make your decision?
A: Oh, absolutely. If it was up to me I would be catching a plane tonight and I would be landing in East Lansing tonight. But I gotta focus on school and I gotta focus on making myself better. I’m in the weight room hitting the weights hard. I’m definitely planning to come out there very soon. I think Michigan State has a football camp coming up very soon. It would be great if I could make it out there to that. But I definitely will be maybe sometime this month or next.
Q: Ron Burton has been in your school to see you. Your thoughts on Coach Ron Burton?
A: Something I really want in playing college football is your position coach. I definitely want my position coach to be energetic. I don’t want my position coach to be coming to practice tired and down about something. I wanna have a great relationship with my D line coach and have him up all the time…very energetic, always on me, pushing me to be the player that I can be, pushing me to be the best I can be. Ron Burton is definitely that guy, all in one nutshell. He’s very energetic and I would love to spend more time with him. So that’s definitely something I look forward to doing and look forward to working with him.
Q: Darius, are you aware that over the last several years Michigan State’s had a top 5 defense in the country?
A: Absolutely. I’m absolutely aware of that.
Q: So tell us about your thoughts on the defensive coordinator. You wanna talk about energy. How about Pat Narduzzi?
A: Narduzzi is the guy. He came into the school too. We sat down and we actually watched film. It was a little different. We’re watching film and he’s sitting down and he’s telling me what I could do better. Plays that I could have done well and I could have got the tackle quicker, or could have got there to the backfield faster. That tells you a lot about Coach Narduzzi’s mentality and what he takes out of football. That’s definitely something I look forward to in a coach. Coach Narduzzi is definitely a great guy.
Q: Michigan State’s approach in recruiting is they believe in pointing out to guys where they gotta get better. Do you appreciate their style of recruiting?
A: That tells you something about Michigan State coaching. That tells you that… Some schools are gonna tell you want you wanna hear, Hey you’re gonna come here and you’re gonna start. Hey you’re gonna come here and you’re gonna be a great player for us. That’s not the way to go. Telling me that I need to get better, we’re gonna make you a better player. If you come to our school I promise you that you’re gonna be the best player that you can be. That’s something that sounds more reasonable and sounds something more like the truth. Coach Narduzzi is definitely that guy. He’s told me that I’m a great player and I definitely need to get better. The only way to do that is working hard and training. So I’m definitely in the weight room…that’s where it starts. I’m definitely out there at the weight room every day working on technique, working on form, just to make myself better.
Q: When talking to people at your school I found out that no matter what you’re wearing you think you’re a fashion model.
A: You know, everyone has their own style and has their own swagger, their own way of dressing. I don’t like to dress bad so I wear what I think looks nice.
Q: With friends like this you don’t need enemies, do ya?
A: No, I don’t.
Q: I asked one of the teachers at your school how they would describe you to someone that had never met you. She said, That’s easy. Laughter. Everywhere he goes there’s laughter. She said she heard that last year in the locker room you were trying to get everybody jacked up and fired up, but no one’s used to you being serious so they started laughing. And then you got mad because you wanted them to get mad.
A: Yeah, I do think I remember that. It’s happened to me a couple times. A lot of guys don’t take me serious. A lot of guys take me as some big clown guy. Which is not bad, I actually have both personalities. Off the field I’m some jolly, excited, energetic guy. On the field I’m very serious. In practice sometimes before a really important game, you wanna take practice really seriously. There are times where you might goof off, but you wanna get the teammates back on the right track. You say, Yo let’s get this done. Get back out there on the field. They take me seriously, sometimes they don’t. But my teammates are my teammates and all of them are great guys. All of them are great guys.
Q: Does Michigan State have a legitimate chance of landing you?
A: Absolutely, absolutely. That’s definitely a school I’m very excited about. And my family is as well. So that’s definitely a great school, academics and football. There’s nothing wrong with that school. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t have a chance of getting me.
Q: What a wonderful kid.