23 Sep, 2021
Photo by Bradley Collier
"WE ARE… MARSHALL!… WE ARE… MARSHALL!" RANG OUT FROM THE TV SET INSIDE THE CLASSROOM. SITTING IN ONE OF THE DESKS WAS TRUDELL BERRY.
The then-seventh grader watched the 2006 film at least five times during that year. It was his teachers' favorite movie to play on free days.
Five years later, Berry who plays both defensive back and receiver for the Lee Ganders ironically will be heading to Huntington, West Virginia next fall to be a part of the Thundering Herd.
A fitting movie-type script, right?
"Everybody in the town is behind Marshall football. Everybody," Berry, who verbally committed to the Thundering Herd this summer, said. "They are projected to be first in their conference this year. I'm excited to see what they bring. Them bringing heat to the field is going to make me feel more inspired to play and ready to play. I can't wait to see them play; it's going to fuel the fire for me watching them play."
The 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back is rated a three star prospect by 24/7 Sports. Along with Marshall, he had offers from Colorado State, Columbia, Pennsylvania and Utah State.
Going from the high school to college game, Berry believes he has a solid groundwork to build off of."
My speed. I think I'm a fast athlete," Berry said. "My feet, I've got good footwork and I'll be playing DB for Marshall, so technique in your footwork is critical at the next level. I feel like I have it, but I will continue to improve on it."
Berry will have this season to improve on his skill as he tries to get the Ganders back into the playoffs for a second-straight season with a "target on our back"-type feeling.
"First thing is we're going to take Battle of Baytown back home again and then we're going to go further in the playoffs," Berry said. "We were just getting our feet wet this past year. We arrived but now we're here to stay."
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Since June, they've worked tirelessly, relentlessly and impressively to carve their own paths toward November's Cross Country state meet in Round Rock.
They've put in hundreds and hundreds of miles, toughened their stamina and exhausted the soles of their sneakers, committed to shaving any and every second off their time.
Every split-second counts and the runners in Lamar Consolidated ISD know this.
Entering the 2021 season, George Ranch has been the dominant force in the sport, with the girls capturing 10 district titles in 11 years. The Longhorns boys, too, brought home the District 20-6A trophy last season.
But as the saying goes, every year is a new year. And 2021 us up for grabs.
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22 Sep, 2021
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
FROM PRACTICING ON THE GRASS FIELDS BEHIND EISENHOWER HIGH SCHOOL TO NOW STRIDING ACROSS THE TURFED PRACTICE FACILITY OF THE SUPER BOWL CHAMPION TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, JAELON DARDEN HAS HAD A HECK OF A JOURNEY.
Being a bit "undersized" in high school, Darden was overlooked by a lot of recruiters while being an all-district quarterback at IKE. He ended up with 15 offers and signed to North Texas where he flourished.
Darden left Denton as the Mean Green's all-time leader in career receptions (230), receiving yards (2,782) and receiving touchdowns (38). In May, Darden was taken with the 129th overall pick by the Buccaneers in the 2021 NFL Draft.
VYPE: From Eisenhower High School to now being in the NFL, what has this journey been like for you?
DARDEN: It's definitely a dream come true. I've been praying for this moment. Every day I wake up and I go out and attack my goals. So, I'm definitely grateful and blessed to be in this position.
VYPE: Take me back to draft night. What was it like getting that call from the Super Bowl Champions?
DARDEN: I cried. At the end of the day my mom always told me the power of the tongue is very powerful. I spoke to somebody two days before and they asked me who I wanted to play with, who was my favorite quarterback? I said Tom Brady. I guess God heard me and made that come true.
VYPE: You get to work with Tom Brady every day. What's that like?
DARDEN: It's a blessing. I've got a smile on my face every day just being out here. Not too many people have this opportunity, so I'm very thankful.
VYPE: What has it been like working with coach Bruce Arians?
DARDEN: He's a great guy. He talks to me every day and encourages me as much as he can. He also gets on to me when I do something wrong, which is needed as a coach-player relationship. I'm grateful for him taking a chance on me and bringing me into this organization.
VYPE: What's been the coolest training camp moment so far?
DARDEN: Tom Brady telling me I ran a nice route and me catching a touchdown from him. That's the most epic thing ever.
VYPE: Coming from 'Swoop Nation', what does Eisenhower High School mean to you?
DARDEN: It means a lot. It taught me to be a man. Being in neighborhood and the environment taught me to stay away from things and keep my head out of trouble. It paved the way for me to being disciplined. It helped me a lot to get to where I am at now.
VYPE: To current players at Eisenhower, what is your message to them?
DARDEN: Size doesn't matter, the heart does. Keep following your dreams and keep pushing. Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do. Get up and pray and give thanks to God and everything else will take care of itself.
This interview was conducted during the preseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and appears in the VYPE Aldine ISD Fall Edition.
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