All-American Games Await James Clemens’ Defensive Lineman Darren Verhage
MADISON- With just over half of the regular season now in the record books the James Clemens Jets remain undefeated with a top 10 state ranking. For senior lineman Darren Verhage his 2021 season of play will not end until after he participates in two All-American Bowl games he has been selected to play in.
Verhage will participate in both the West Coast All-American Bowl on Dec. 29 in Los Angeles and the DREAM All-American Bowl scheduled for Jan. 17 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex.
“I’m just incredibly excited and never thought when I started football I’d be doing this and I feel blessed,” said Verhage.
At 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds, “Big D,” as he’s nicknamed by his teammates, has been a tremendous force on the defensive line for the Jets as the team’s leading tackler for a defensive squad that has given up just 17 points per game and helping the Jets to 6-0 overall and 3-0 for the standings lead in Region 4 of Class 7A. He’s aggressive, a hard hitter and has good feet within the line. He added, “I drive through contact and chase the ball across the field if need be. One thing I know is that I never get tired.”
Born in California, he and his dad, Victor Verhage, a sports performance expert, moved to Chicago before moving to Huntsville where the younger Verhage began football as a freshman. He played at Grissom High, but after a 63-nothing shellacking by James Clemens Verhage noticed a huge difference in the two programs and he wanted the better program to enrich his own skills. Halfway through his sophomore year of high school he made the move to Madison to join the team that embarrassed him and his Grissom teammates.
“Before I began playing football I had many people tell me I would be good so I decided to join,” added Verhage. “It’s actually fun to hit people on the playing field and I love the excited crowd in attendance.”
With an incredible high-tech gymnasium in his home, Verhage goes through tremendous workouts led by his father. He leads the team in strength with his best in the bench press of 315 pounds and 405 pounds in the squat.
“I grew up on the chubby side and I had to burn that off when I joined football,” said Verhage. “My plan is to keep working out after our season is officially over and prep for the two All-American games.”
In the DREAM game at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, Verhage is one of 176 athletes chosen to participate in the contest celebrating its second year. Players were selected to have exemplified great leadership skills on and off the field and be a standout in their skilled position. The West Coast contest is part of an organization which has hosted football camps since 1969 and hosting national type bowl games since 2005. Two recent NFL Most Valuable Players, Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson, played in the game held at SoFi Stadium, home of the L.A. Chargers.
Verhage carries a 3.9 grade point average and he’s had several offers from schools including Cumberland, Birmingham Southern, Lindsey Wilson and Ottawa University. He plays both offense and defense, but it’s his play on the defensive side of the line that is catching the eyes of college scouts.
“I’m blown away by my selections to play in these games and I know it’s an incredible opportunity for me to be seen by colleges for possible scholarships,” said Verhage. “I’ve had a few schools contact me after the invitations were sent out and I’m looking for more opportunities after each of the games.”