Season recap: Darius Kilgo
Justin Hardin had heard about the surprisingly nimble, 6-foot-3, 325-pound defensive tackle when he took the Weddington (N.C.) High coaching job before the 2009 season.
The Warriors were coming off 16 straight losses, and Hardin knew that the play of Darius Kilgo -- the aforementioned monster in the middle -- would be crucial to Weddington’s turnaround. The new coach’s first impressions of the Maryland recruit -- who had dropped 40 pounds -- gave him hope for his first season.
“What I first noticed was how hard he worked in the weight room,” Hardin said. “He was voted one of our team captains before the summer started, because of how hard he worked in the weight room and as a leader. That’s the first thing I recognized.”
With Kilgo starting at defensive tackle and on the offensive line, Weddington rebounded from its two-year slump. The Warriors (5-7) earned a berth in the state playoffs, falling in the first round.
Kilgo finished his senior season with 67 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles. One of those four sacks came in a 22-7 win over Parkwood on Oct. 9.
“I didn’t even see it,” Hardin said. “A reporter came up to me after the game and said, ‘Coach, did you see what Darius did to that kid?’ So I went back and watched the film and it was the most amazing play I’ve seen a high school player make. An offensive lineman was trying to peel back on him, and at the last second, Darius just threw his shoulder into this kid and flipped him on his head. Darius kept on running, didn’t break stride and made the sack.”
Hardin credited Kilgo with helping to change Weddington’s attitude and culture when it came to football. While Kilgo wasn’t the most vocal player on Hardin’s team, his word carried significant weight. Eventually, Hardin expects Kilgo to garner similar respect in College Park.
“Right now he’s a big fish in a small pond,” Hardin said. “Once he gets to a place like Maryland, he’ll be going against the top players in the country. He’s going to fit in well. He’s a physically talented kid, but I think he’s going to be more motivated when he gets around those football players and the academics [at UM]. I think he’s going to blossom and mature even more. I think he’s going to have a great career at Maryland and hopefully contribute early because I think he can.”
Ralph Friedgen might be in agreement. The longtime Maryland coach visited Weddington before the holiday break to check up on Kilgo. The UM staff wants Kilgo to come to College Park this summer, dive in to the team’s weight training program and help the young team build for its future. Hardin thinks Friedgen has a “hope for [Kilgo] to contribute early.”
“He was particularly impressed with how he looked physically,” Hardin said. “Darius has lost some weight and I think [Friedgen] was surprised at how physically fit he was. What Coach Friedgen talked about mainly was academics and the type of people they want to recruit to Maryland. And I think Darius fits that role of the type of person Coach Friedgen wants to have at Maryland.”