Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Gladewater on the map: Mack on mission
By Damon Sayles
FORT WORTH, Texas -- If you don’t live in Texas, chances are, you have no idea where Gladewater, Texas, is located. Many Texans couldn’t find it on a map if given 30 seconds.
Daylon Mack laughs every time he’s questioned about his hometown: “Gladewater? Where’s that?” The east Texas town has a population of about 6,500. The high school features roughly 590 students – which dwarfs the size of some senior classes at Texas schools.
“There’s not too much around. We’ve got a Brookshire’s,” said Mack, referring to the privately owned grocery store that circulates around Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. “We’ve got a Pizza Hut, a Sonic and we just got a McDonald’s. It’s brand new, maybe two months old.”
Daylon Mack is No. 10 in the ESPN Junior 300, a 310-pound defensive lineman with 4.84 speed.
Gladewater also has something that many schools don’t. They have Daylon Mack.
At 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds, Mack is one of the most sought-after players in the Class of 2015. The defensive tackle is ranked No. 10 in the initial ESPN Junior 300, and he’s the No. 3 player nationally at his position. Additionally, Mack is the top-ranked player in Texas, an honor that holds a lot of weight in a state that treats high school football almost as a religion.
Gladewater fans remember running back Corey Davis, a 2011 Gladewater graduate who had a brief college stint playing for Pittsburgh. If Mack pans out to be the player many anticipate, he could be one of the best to come out of Gladewater.
Perhaps, one of the best to come out of Texas -- a what-if that he tries not to think about, even though others around him are dubbing him as the next great one.
“I can’t worry about all that,” Mack said. “There’s always going to be pressure, but I’m preparing myself for it. “Right now, I just feel like it’s my responsibility to lead my team to the playoffs. The team hasn’t made it in three years, so that’s my responsibility.”
Mack is coming off a sophomore season that many senior defensive lineman would love to have. He had 64 tackles -- including 16 for loss --and also recorded six sacks and six fumble recoveries. In May, Mack was named both the defensive lineman MVP and overall defensive MVP of the East Texas Sports Network Combine.
The combine, in fact, was where Mack formally introduced the world to how versatile he was. His strength was never in question; Mack bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times. He’s maxed out at 385 pounds on the bench. There’s even a video on YouTube where he squatted 605 pounds 10 times.
What many didn’t know was how quick Mack was. In a laser-timed 40-yard dash, Mack finished in 4.84 seconds, which is blazing fast for a 310-pound lineman. Add in the fact that, per Baugh, Mack is an A-B student in the classroom, and it makes him even more attractive to college scouts.
Put all of the intangibles together, and it makes sense why Mack has more than a dozen offers from college football heavyweights. Alabama has offered, as have LSU, Florida State, Miami, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, Clemson and others.
“I know there have been a lot of guys offering him scholarships. For sure, he’s one of those kids you can tell just by size, ability and the way he can run that he has the tools to play at the next level,” Gladewater coach Jerrod Baugh said. “We still get him for two years, and we’ve got a lot of work to do where he’s one of those who plays himself into his abilities.”
The one thing Baugh does a solid job of with Mack is keeping him grounded. As good as Mack is, Baugh knows he can be better, and he makes sure Mack works to be that kind of player.
And if Mack meets all expectations, Baugh expects him to dominate the college ranks -- wherever he chooses to play. Texas A&M was Mack’s first offer, and the Aggies were considered a longtime favorite. However, with new offers every day -- particularly the most recent offer from LSU -- Mack said he will weigh all of his options and make an educated decision when the time is right.
Mack, however, did consider LSU a “game-changer” in his recruiting process. He received the offer while making an appearance at the TCU camp on July 19.
“They’re already at the top with A&M, and I haven’t even visited yet,” Mack told ESPN.com about LSU. “I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I do [visit]. I can’t wait to get out there.”
While many look at Mack as one of the nation’s elite high school players regardless of classification, the attention is still somewhat new to him. He still remembers picking up that Texas A&M offer before Gladewater’s first district game of the 2012 season -- and how he felt throughout the game.
“To be honest, I didn’t know was happening,” Mack said. “I didn’t know offers were that big of a deal. It seemed to be a real big deal, and A&M happened to be a very good team. It turned out to be a huge offer.
“Now that I have the offers I have, I just want to take my time and make the right decision. I’ve got some good ones.”
Mack said he’s looking to announce his commitment around this time next year. He’s visited Texas A&M, Texas and TCU, and he’s hoping to visit Florida State, Clemson and LSU sometime during his junior season. Mack added that he’ll be a part of the Texas Stampede in Austin on July 27.
Don’t think for a second, however, that recruiting is the only thing on Mack’s mind. He’ll be the first to admit his team has some work to do after a 3-7 season in 2012. Mack will work with linebacker Clint Sorrells to lead a young defense, one with only three returning starters. Offensively, Gladewater will be led by offensive lineman Thorn Berry and running back James Reese.
“He [Mack] can’t do it all by himself,” Baugh said. “We have to get everyone playing on the same level. As for Daylon, we just have to get him where he is playing to his ability every snap. He was only 15 years old playing around a bunch of older kids. Sometimes you lose track of a kid’s maturity just because of what he looks like on the field.”
The playoffs are a goal for Mack. A state championship is the ultimate goal. After that, Mack will look at becoming a great college defensive lineman.
And if all works as planned, look for his legacy of being the pride of Gladewater to escalate.
“Recruiting, man, it’s all real humbling, no doubt. It makes me feel good,” Mack said. “But I want us to be champions before I leave Gladewater.”