CENTRAL, S.C. — There is something about the small town of Central, S.C., and its local football team – the Daniel High School Lions.
In Central, high school football is a way of life on Friday nights in the fall as the town comes together to celebrate a program that has been one of the more successful ones in the state of South Carolina. Besides the multiple state championships the football program has produced, it has also produced its fair share of Division I football players.
Former Clemson and All-ACC wide receiver Terry Smith was a Daniel High School product, as were the Young brothers, Will and Kyle, who both played center for the Tigers. Kyle became an All-American and is an associate athletic director in the Clemson Athletic Department, while Will is a high school football coach. Former Daniel running back Javis Austin also played for the Tigers, while a few more played college ball at Georgia and other schools.
However, beginning with Jarvis Jenkins in 2007, there has never been another stretch at Daniel High School like what is currently going on. Jenkins is one of four former Lions, and Tigers for that matter, to currently play in the NFL.
Jenkins plays for the Kanas City Chiefs, while Deandre “Nuk” Hopkins plays for the Houston Texans. DeShawn Williams plays for the Cincinnati Bengals and Shaq Lawson plays for the Buffalo Bills. From 2007-2015, all four played and started for Clemson.
“This just shows no matter how small the town is there is some talent here,” Williams said. “I think a lot of people have taken notice of Central and that there is a lot of talent here. I feel like down the road you will be talking to someone else just like you are talking to us now.
“Daniel has put some great people in the NFL and I think it is a high school that needs some recognition.”
Jenkins, who will be entering his seventh season in the NFL next week, is a starting defensive tackle for the Chiefs. Deandre Hopkins, who was a star wide receiver and safety at Daniel, is now a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Texans, while Lawson is the starting defensive end for the Bills. Williams is a reserve defensive tackle for the Bengals.
“It all started before us because you had guys like Kevin Youngblood that went to Georgia and stuff like that,” Jenkins said. “Javis Austin went to Clemson, but to see guys come so frequently after me is just a blessing. To see guys like Nuk doing what he does. Shaq and even DeShawn, we are just blessed to be doing what we are doing.”
That’s why they are giving back to the one place that gave them so much growing up – Daniel High School. The four hosted their second annual Daniel High School Football Camp on Friday at Singleton Field in Central.
More than 500 kids from ages 8-15 participated in the free camp.
“We were all raised right and we were taught to give back to the community that gave so much to us,” Jenkins said. “DeShawn, Nuk, Shaq and all of us are so grateful to do this.”
Jenkins, along with Hopkins, started the free camp two years ago, and then Lawson and Williams joined in last year.
“It is great to be back home,” Williams said. “We don’t have enough time because we have to work out or spend time with our families that we have outside of this, but to come back and see the kids, the smile on their faces … When we were coming up, Jarvis, myself, Shaq and Nuk, we did not have people. We had like Kevin Luv, but they were old. We did not have anyone in our age group to show us what to do.”
The kids at Daniel today have four to look up to.
“It is great to come back to your high school and give back to the community that you grew up in,” said Lawson, who was the No. 19 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. “It is always great to see the boys. We are always in the season or traveling during the off-season so it is great to come back and see the guys that went to Daniel and helping out the kids. It means a lot to us.”
Jenkins loves the camp and he wants to help as many kids as he can. This year, they had 100 more kids register than last year, and the goal next year is to increase the size of the camp to 800 kids overall.
“It feels pretty good because when I was younger, I did have something like this to come back to,” he said. “Just to see guys that are successful and are giving back to the community and getting positive feedback from the community. I feel blessed to do it.”
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