Sumter Central's Lake takes ‘big step’ to UA


Darren Lake signed to play college football at the University of Alabama at Sumter Central High School in York (Photo by Dusty Compton )


 

YORK | The houndstooth hat might have been a tad small for a proper fit, but it was an appropriate choice for Darren Lake.

Lake delighted the crowd in Sumter Central High School’s library when he wore the hat made famous by Paul W. “Bear” Bryant and signed to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

“It’s a big step,” said Lake, a Class 4A All-State defensive lineman. “It feels great. I’m kind of glad it’s over.”

Lake, who said he’s 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, will join a program that won Bowl Championship Series national titles in 2009 and 2011. Alabama secured its latest crown by beating LSU 21-0 on Jan. 9 in New Orleans. Lake watched it on television with family and friends.

“I like the coaches there,” Lake said. “They really push their players onto their goals and what the players can do. Coming in as a freshman, I just want to do good and finish the year on out. People say it’s the hardest year. I think if I can finish the year out I can go on from there.”

Sumter Central coach Andre Pickering said Lake has been timed at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash and scored a 25 on his ACT college entrance exam. In his one season with the Sumter Central Jaguars, Lake recorded 66 tackles with four sacks and two fumble recoveries.

“I think my upper-body strength is pretty good,” Lake said. “I can take on the double-team (blocks). I’ve got the leg power. I just need to work on my quickness.”

When signing day rolled around a year ago, Lake wasn’t a nationally known prospect, and he thought junior college was a real possibility. Lake had been a two-way lineman at Sumter County High School when Pickering was the coach at Livingston before Sumter County and Livingston combined to create the new school. Pickering got the job of directing the new Sumter Central football program and told Lake he would be limited to defense. Lake lined up as a nose tackle for the Jaguars. His mission was to disrupt the blocking schemes.

“He can move left to right better than any big man I’ve been around,” Pickering said. “I told him he was going to play defensive tackle and he would be great at it. He got better and stronger, and we spent a lot of time teaching him a lot of technique.”

Lake attracted attention when he turned in a dominating performance at a summer camp at Tennessee.

“They showed him what to do one time, and he beat everybody up there,” Pickering said.

Despite a sore ankle, he performed well enough at Alabama’s camp to be offered a scholarship. Lake went on to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

“There were coaches from USC and the West Coast schools who couldn’t believe they never heard of this kid,” Pickering said.

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.