- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
FOLEY, Ala. -- It’s been two months since he moved, but Darius Paige is finally starting to ‘get in the groove’ and become acclimated with his new surroundings at Foley High School.
Paige attended Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla., for the previous three years, but when he realized he wasn’t going to obtain enough core credits there to qualify, he was forced to transfer schools.
Foley High School was a close option that offered the number of core classes he needed. It seemed like a win-win situation.
However, reports came out that the University of Alabama coaching staff had a hand in moving Paige, who committed to the Crimson Tide in May. Although the reports were inaccurate, it made the transition that much harder for the ESPN 300 defensive lineman.
“It started getting to me at first because I really didn’t know how to handle it,” Paige said. “I didn’t have nobody to turn to or talk to. I mostly kept to myself and just focused on getting my grades. I let it all play out.”
To this point, Paige has been able to handle everything thrown his way. He met with the AHSAA to clear up any confusion. He’s taking the core credits he needs and is on track to both graduate and qualify at UA. He’s even becoming a favorite among his peers at the new school.
Foley head coach Todd Watson knew what type of talent Paige was on the field, but he’s been more impressed with how the high school senior has handled himself off the field.
“That’s the thing that’s really been impressive about him is how well he’s handled whatever is thrown at him, whether it be a new school, new academics or press, whatever,” Watson said. “He just rolls with the flow, takes it as it goes and moves on.”
With all of the negative publicity now behind him, Paige has been able to get back to doing what he does best, playing football.
But, he’s the first to admit that it hasn’t been an easy transition on the football field, either, even for a player his size. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman has had to adjust to playing Class 6A football in the state of Alabama.
“It’s a lot different,” Paige said. “Everything is much faster, up-tempo. I had to switch defenses my senior year, which is real hard. We do some of the same stuff, but it’s just a lot of different calls that I have to get used to.
“I’m not doing like I’m supposed to be. I’m out of shape a little bit. It’s just a little harder, switching from 4A to 6A. It’s a lot faster.”
As for his status with Alabama, Paige says schools stopped recruiting him once he committed to the Tide because they knew he was solid. Now, he’s just focused on maintaining his grades and taking the ACT, so he can qualify.
When he visited Tuscaloosa two weeks ago for the Ole Miss game, the UA coaches told him to stay focused and keep his grades up. He plans to take his official visit there after the season.
Ultimately, Paige hopes the move to Foley and all of the adversity that came with it will only help him when he gets to Alabama.
“I can learn from it this time, so when I go up there, it will be a breeze,” he said.
2dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough
2dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf