KENNEDALE, Texas — Sometimes names and heights can lead teams in predictable directions.
If you remove them and just let statistics tell the story, though, you may find that some players deemed “diminutive” are actually more productive than the larger ones. Take one in particular that’s still unoffered entering the offseason of his junior year:
9.5 career yards per carry average
25-6 overall and 10-0 District 5-4A records
2 trips to the University Interscholastic League Class 4A State Tournament
1 appearance in the state title game
All of these statistics were accumulated in the span two seasons. The numbers also came in spite of having to share carries with senior dual-threat quarterback Evan Jowers and lightning-quick running back Jaden Knowles.
Meet Kennedale’s De’shaun “DJ” Kirven.
“I feel like the position i play coaches think I’m too small for it. I think that’s why Im not getting looked at,” the 5-foot-7 and 166-pound back said, shrugging his shoulders as if it’s only a matter of time before the NCAA gets the memo. “Talent can only take you so far but when you’re working hard and have the determination to succeed, it will open up people’s eyes.”
Kirven is currently unrated by both 247Sports and ESPN 300’s player rankings. He has zero stars despite gaining more yards (2,191) and touchdowns (41) than Class 6A Allen’s Brock Sturges, a three-star Arizona State signee that finished second in rushing among DFW players. He also topped popular Class 6A names like Duncanville’s Keilon Elder and Class 5A Southlake Carroll’s TJ McDaniel.
Kennedale’s Larry Brooks, who recently signed with Tulane University, said he believes people’s eyes will open sooner — rather than later.
“He is all around back that can play in any system,” the three-star safety said. “You want him to run it? He can do that. You want him to catch it out the the backfield? He can do that too. He’s also thrown a pass or two. What people don’t notice about his is that his vision and strength is elite for his size. His balance,breaking tackles,and ability to stop on a dime and accelerate instantly, too, is Division I quality.”
Baylor and Oklahoma Universities and the Universities of Central Florida, North Texas, and Oregon are on his short list of preferred landing spots. Each, he said, offers a different wrinkle that could use his skill to exploit conference rivals’ weaknesses.
Baylor is set to lose former Ennis, Texas running back Terence Williams after his 2018 senior season. Oklahoma will in a similar situation when former Katy running back Rodney Anderson graduates in 2020 — assuming he does not enter the NFL Draft before graduation. North Texas has one of the most potent rushing attacks in college football with a slew of smallish backs.
The Ducks may have an opening following the departure of career rushing leader Royce Freeman via graduation and possible NFL Draft pick.
“I’ve been watching [Oregon] since I was in elementary — from LaMichael James to De’Anthony Thomas,” Kirven said. “They’ve both went to the NFL despite their size. North Texas is a family school for me. My uncle Fred [Scott] played linebacker and recently graduated from there. They also have great running attack. I watched UCF this past season and I saw that [one of] their running back was 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds and thought I would have a great chance of playing there. Baylor is great at running the ball and they have had some good running backs come through there.
“Oklahoma has great running backs and they all get an opportunity to touch the ball and make something happen. All these offenses have a good running game and will put you in the NFL. I feel like i can make a huge impact in any of these offenses. Maybe I could win a national title, too.”
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of TexasHSFootball, covering prep football throughout the Lone Star State and collegiate and professional football throughout the country. Follow him on Twitter, @TheMJMatthews, and read more of his content here.
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