Darian Owens had UCLA on his mind after his junior year at Clovis West High School – perfectly understandable for a prized recruit rated a four-star catch by Scout.com.
But the dreams of college stardom got too far inside Owens’ head after he made his oral commitment, and it soon showed in the classroom during his senior year. He fell behind, then didn’t qualify to go to UCLA. National letter-of-intent day came and went in February, with Owens nowhere to be found on the lists of NCAA Division I signings.
Reality set in for the 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver, who had to re-evaluate his future. He opted to enroll at Fresno City College.
I slacked off. Got too much into my head right after football season was over.
Darian Owens on not taking classwork seriously at Clovis West, ultimately costing him a chance to play at UCLA
“Academically, to be honest with you, I slacked off,” Owens said. “Got too much into my head right after (the 2014) football season was over. I was just around the wrong crowd. It was just all on me. Just making the wrong decisions and I have to pay for it.”
In his junior season, Owens finished with 43 receptions for 882 yards and seven touchdowns. But even that year wasn’t trouble-free.
Owens was suspended three games for violating team policy, including a second-round Divison I playoff game against Liberty-Bakersfield. He also missed the Golden Eagles’ postseason opener because of an injury.
But in April 2015, in front of a huge crowd in the school’s amphitheater, Owens picked the Bruins over Notre Dame, Oregon and USC. Then came his rough senior year.
Owens said he’s looking forward to playing for the Rams and making better decisions.
“I’m staying in town,” said Owens, who wavered between the Rams and Eastern Arizona, a community college in Thatcher.
“Nothing is wrong with that. It’s just that you make certain decisions and there will be repercussions. That’s what happened. It’s just academics.”
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia said he met with Owens a month ago and has found him to be a “quality individual” who possesses great skills but must emphasize school work as well.
“He’s a hometown player and we like to keep those players in town,” Caviglia said. “(Offensive coordinator) Vince (Branstetter) started the conversation and we reiterated the advantages of staying home, and one of those being this is a quality program that’s going to take care of you.”
Owens will have a big supporter 15 minutes away.
“Any time a kid takes accountability for his actions and takes a step back and looks at it, I think it’s always great,” Clovis West coach George Petrissans said. “I’m always rooting for Darian. I want him to be successful.”
Owens promises he has learned from the mistakes.
“I had that superstar mentality still living in Fresno in high school,” he said. “That definitely brought down my game. Now I’m like more humbled, more grounded. I’m willing to work, even twice as hard or three times as hard. I was thinking like I was the guy in town, like everyone knew who Darian was. That just went to my head and it obviously crumbled down on me.”
With a renewed focus, Owens showed up at the Rams’ conditioning workouts. Coaches appreciate his approach.
There are no free handouts. I learned that the hard way.
Darian Owens, who will play at Fresno City College, on his renewed focus to land an NCAA Division I scholarship
“He comes out and stands next to me and asks questions about the next play,” receivers coach Keith Travis said. “He asks good questions. He’s starting from behind and I expect him to make mistakes right now, and that’s how you learn by asking questions. I’m going to demand his respect and I’m all over him every day.
“I’m already talking to him about how to get to better. If he’s not coachable, he’s going to end up sitting on the bench and not able to play at the next level anyways. If he wants to play at the next level and get better, he’s going to have to grow up a little bit and take coaching.”
Owens said the plan remains to get to UCLA or another D-I school.
“Right when it came down to grades in crunch time, I didn’t pull through,” Owens said. “There are no free handouts. I learned that the hard way.”
Fresno City College football key dates
- Aug. 11: Fall practice begins
- Aug. 25: Scrimmage at Sacramento City
- Aug. 28: Wall of Fame ceremony at Pardini’s
- Sept. 3: Season opener at Sierra, 2 p.m.
Rams 2016 schedule
3 at Sierra, 2 p.m.
10 vs. Santa Rosa, 5 p.m.
17 at San Mateo, 2 p.m.
24 vs. American River, 6 p.m.
1 vs. Reedley, 6 p.m.
15 at Chabot*, 6 p.m.
22 vs. Modesto*, 1 p.m.
28 at Laney*, 6 p.m.
5 vs. San Joaquin Delta*, 1 p.m.
12 at COS*, 1 p.m.
*Valley Conference game