ORANGE PARK - Former Oakleaf High standout linebacker Darrion Owens, the first Knight to take the trip south to play at the University of Miami, thought he could stop thinking football after he finished his final year of eligibility at the University of Houston.
"Coach Chipoletti made contact with Coach Macpherson about the opening and we talked," said Owens, who played under former Oakleaf and St. Johns Country Day School head football coach Derek Chipoletti, who also became part of Tom Macpherson's coaching staff at Orange Park High School for 2020. "I was trying to get back into football, but had taken some time off after finishing at Houston."
Owens, at 6'-4", 250 pounds, is still an impressive physical specimen that looks like he could still don the pads and crack some eggs on the gridiron.
"I left football with a bunch of injuries and I thought I needed a break after Houston," said Owens. "It took a month or two for me to really miss being on the field."
Owens, known for bone-rattling tackles for Oakleaf, thought the challenge of teaching young players football is all about the minutae of football.
"A lot of times, football comes down to just doing the little things right," said Owens. "I try to teach that part of the game of doing your job perfectly; the right cover, the right sit on a certain play can be the difference of a championship game. Attention to detail will take them to the next level."
Owens jokingly said the hard-hitting part of the game, something he excelled at, is a little tougher to teach.
"That's just desire, you got to be born with that," he said.
While at Miami, Owens noted that win over Notre Dame was the highlight of his college career.
"That was a game where we were looked down on," said Owens. "That was a game that we showed out."
As one of a small brotherhood of high schoolers who get to play college football at an elite level with a powerhouse team like the University of Miami, Owens reveled in the memories of walking out through the tunnel to a crowd of 50-60,000 people.
"There is no feeling like that when you walk out," said Owens. "But, you got to earn it. It is something that you have to consider a blessing."
Owens also acknowledged that he may have started an interest in Oakleaf football at the University of Miami after guys like Shaq Quarterman, Jalen Rivers and Chantz Williams followed him to the U.
"I'm proud to be part of the Oakleaf legacy of Miami players," said Owens. "I want them to keep coming north to get players."
Owens was chosen as a Semper Fidelis All American while at Oakleaf then played in 39 games for Miami with 79 tackles as a rush defensive end with 7.5 tackles for loss. His final game at Miami was the Orange Bowl against Wisconsin where he had nine tackles and a pass breakup.