New Jersey DE Darius Slade Talks Michigan State and His Recruitment
Eateries in East Lansing might want to start stocking up. Class of 2014 recruit Darius Slade could soon be bound for East Lansing, bringing with him a hunger for both success and mounds of food.
Football players are known for their appetites. Darius Slade certainly has a big one. The 6’5, 237 pound defensive end could do serious damage at a buffet, but the Montclair, New Jersey native has a certain hunger away from the dinner table, too. Slade has a burning desire to constantly improve, in every aspect of his life. His drive has led him to become a stellar student and a talented football player with a high ceiling.
The hungry young man recently joined Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio to talk about Michigan State and his recruitment.
The Spartan coaching staff, namely head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, are always searching for quick, tough defensive linemen to cement the team’s front seven in the future and keep the MSU defense at the top of the Big Ten. Dantonio and Narduzzi have certainly found one such player in Darius Slade. A persistent defensive end with a nose for the ball, Slade pushes through opposing offensive linemen at will. Quick on his feet, the rising senior at Montclair High School can dance around the swiftest of opposing linemen. He gobbles up running backs in the backfield for breakfast, feasts on quarterbacks for dinner, and occasionally has a receiver for a mid-day snack.
Compared to Reggie White for his love of the game, Slade plays with a passion rarely seen on a football field. Even when Slade looks too far away from the action to make an impact, he somehow finds his way into the play. The toughness and persistence he displays on the field makes him a fun player to watch, much like his football idol. “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,” Slade explained. “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.”
Like Lewis, Slade has amazing athleticism. Slade tracks down opposing ballcarriers with remarkable efficiency for a defensive lineman. He has his family genes to thank for this gift. “My family is definitely football-based. Our genetics are very huge. I barely have any cousins who are under 6 feet tall,” Slade said. “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…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 six foot.”
For a standout football player, Slade is a standup guy. Not one to boast or brag, the young man is not your stereotypical athlete. “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,” Slade said. “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.”
Many coaches have already taken notice of the humble and hungry student-athlete. MSU, Rutgers, Pitt and West Virginia are among the schools that have offered Slade a scholarship. Though not yet sure when he will decide on a college, the New Jersey native knows that he wants to start visiting some schools, especially Michigan State.
Slade has not yet been to East Lansing, but he promised that a visit is “definitely going to happen.” The well-rounded recruit even said, “If it was up to me I would be catching a plane tonight and I would be landing in East Lansing tonight. But I have to focus on school and I have to 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,” he pledged. “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.”
Recruited primarily by MSU defensive line coach Ron Burton, Slade has not had much time to sit down and talk with Dantonio, something he would like to do during his visit. Upon hearing that the Michigan State head coach is a proud man of faith, Slade said: “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,” he explained. “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.”
Burton has interacted with Slade a lot more. The experienced assistant coach has thoroughly impressed Slade, as Burton fits his model of an ideal 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 want to have a great relationship with my [defensive] 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,” Slade said. “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 [I] look forward to working with him.”
The Spartan coaching staff does not have a shortage of enthusiastic coaches, and Pat Narduzzi is one of them. That style has paid off for him, as Michigan State has consistently had one of the best defenses in the nation in recent years.
“Narduzzi is the guy,” Slade affirmed. “He came into [my] school, too. 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.”
In interacting with these three great coaches, Slade has seen MSU’s recruiting style first-hand. The coaches on this staff are not going to fill a recruit’s head with promises of National Championships or All-American selections. Instead, Dantonio and Co. are realistic and upfront with recruits.
“Some schools are going to tell you want you want to hear, ‘Hey, you’re going to come here and you’re going to start.’ ‘Hey, you’re going to come here and you’re going to be a great player for us.’ That’s not the way to go,” Slade said. “Telling me that I need to get better, we’re going to make you a better player. If you come to our school, I promise you that you’re going to 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 [in] the weight room every day working on technique, working on form, just to make myself better.”
After talking with the Spartan coaching staff and looking closely at the school, Slade has a deep interest in Michigan State. “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,” Slade stated. “There’s no reason why they wouldn’t have a chance of getting me.”
Slade’s aforementioned hunger on the field and in the weight room also translates to the classroom. Slade’s teachers have taken notice of his drive to succeed. “I’m not a student where I can just know my work. I have to really dig deep and I’ve really have to study for it,” the high school senior explained. “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 have to study. And I keep studying and I keep working hard.”
Two different personalities take shape when talking about Slade. The first is the serious student and football player committed to working hard and improving. The second is a jovial figure who spreads happiness and makes others laugh.
“A lot of guys don’t take me serious[ly]. 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.” Slade continued, “In practice sometimes before a really important game, you want to take practice really seriously. There are times where you might goof off, but you want to get the teammates back on the right track.”
The skilled student-athlete from New Jersey would certainly look good in the Green and White. A talented, hard-working young man, Slade would fit right in with the rest of the team. Regardless of where Slade takes his big appetite and his outstanding football ability, the Spartan Nation wishes him well in all of his endeavors.