ORANGEBURG, S.C. (December 4, 2022) – South Carolina State University alumnus Decobie Durant is living his dream in the National Football League, but he has not left his roots in the rearview mirror.
The rookie defensive back honored three South Carolina youths on Friday by giving them autographed memorabilia from his team, the current Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s the first day of a new life — it’s that kind of experience,” Tomias Curry, a 13-year-old eighth grader from Carver-Edisto Middle School in Orangeburg County, said of being honored by Durant. “I’m glad I could be here. I really appreciate this. It’s something I can look back to if I make it big in the world.
“It’s very cool. I never thought I’d get to do this,” said Curry, a running back for his school’s football team.
Durant wanted to honor students who excel not only on the football field, but also in the classroom.
“I try to do it for my family, and the sport is fun,” Curry said of being a scholar-athlete. “The two kind of mix together, and it motivates me and keeps me going.”
Durant finished his collegiate career as an SC State Bulldog as a member of the 2021 National HBCU Championship Team before being drafted by the Rams last spring. He wanted to give back to his community by connecting with the young players. Via video conference, he took a few minutes away from practice to encourage the students he honored.
“I know how hard it is to be a student-athlete,” Durant said in a message from Los Angeles. “A lot of hard work and sacrifices have to be made to excel both on and off the field. I wanted to show love to you three guys for your hard work ethic and setting the standard high for all your peers around.
“Remember to always stay focused, give every goal your very best effort, learn from your mistakes, and always stay humble. If you do this, then nothing can hold you back from achieving your dreams in life,” he said.
Along with Curry, Tyler McManus, a senior at Durant’s high school alma mater, Lamar High School in Darlington County, South Carolina, and Jaylen Morris, a seventh grader at Spaulding Middle School also in Darlington County, visited the SC State campus on Thursday to receive their gifts. Each scholar-athlete received an autographed Rams football, T-shirt and gloves.
“Growing up, I was probably sixth or seventh grade when he played, and I was one of the water boys on the sideline,” McManus said. “I rode with him to the championship game in 2015. Being young and looking up to a guy like Decobie and then getting something from him when you are in high school, it means a lot.”
McManus, who was starting quarterback at Lamar, hopes to continue playing football in college, but a field of study is still in the air.
“I haven’t really made up my mind yet. I kind of want to go into biology,” McManus said.
Morris already had a connection to the SC State campus and the Bulldogs football team. His father was once a wide receiver for the Bulldogs.
“The thing is I can accomplish anything if I work my hardest, like my dad did,” Morris said.
Getting a nod for his hard work academically and athletically from an NFL player was a boost, as well.
“It means a lot to me to know that I am capable of doing what I need to do, and it means that I can push myself,” Morris said.
On hand at Thursday’s event to honor the young students were SC State President Alexander Conyers, Bulldogs Head Football Coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough and three current members of the team, Micaiah Settles, Justin Smith-Brown and Jordan Smith. Pough also addressed Curry, Morris and McManus about Durant’s good character and congratulated them for their work in school.
The event was coordinated by Dr. Rashad Anderson, an SC State associate professor of teacher education and director of the campus’ Call Me MiSTER Program, who has maintained a connection with Durant, his former student.
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About South Carolina State University
Founded in 1896 as a land grant institution with a mission of providing service to the citizens of the state, South Carolina State University has evolved from a small teachers’ college into a major University center of learning and research. Located in Orangeburg, S.C., South Carolina State offers more than 50 different fields of study on the undergraduate and graduate levels. South Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools.