The smile, or at least its location, catches the attention, from the dynamic colors surrounding the monster’s face to how it sticks out of Darius Paige’s shoes.
Paige, a highly regarded defensive lineman playing in Saturday’s Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, is known to friends for more than harassing quarterbacks.
And if fans want to solely focus on his football skills, well, put a sock in it.
“I’m known for the socks,” Paige said. “I’m known as the sock guy.”
The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder from Foley showed up Sunday with monsters gawking from the front of his shins.
For one early-week practice, Paige’s feet had an ’80s dance club look. Red stars stared out from a lime-green background wrapped by orange, purple and bright blue lines.
“I have all kinds of socks,” Paige said. “I would steal my mom’s socks when I was in eighth grade, and it just went from there.
“It became my thing.”
Paige, an Alabama commitment whose high school transfer this summer drew NCAA notice, is always on the hunt for socks. Friends long ago stopped teasing him over them and just enjoy. His mom, too.
“At first, they would ask me questions about them,” Paige said. “‘Why are you wearing those socks?'”
Paige prefers talking socks over his summer experience after moving from Washington High in Pensacola, Fla., to Foley.
A Washington coach alleged that an Alabama assistant convinced Paige to transfer so that Paige could meet NCAA academic standards for freshman eligibility. Unrelated to the NCAA, the Washington coach was reprimanded by his school board for revealing Paige’s academic details, the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal reported.
“It was depressing, harsh,” Paige said. “It was nervewracking, but I had to go out and do what I needed to do, and not pay attention to the media and all that.”
Paige finished with 42 tackles, three sacks and seven quarterback hurries this year.
“The season went pretty good, but I wasn’t that pleased with it,” Paige said. “My pass rushing could have been better. I wasn’t getting off the ball quickly enough. I was getting lazy.”
Paige said the transfer is paying off academically, enough that he’ll sit back, put his socks up and enjoy next month’s national championship game.
Paige, after going to four Alabama games this year, will take his official visit in mid-January. Next year, he’ll be ready to play for the Tide.
“When I went to their junior day, it stuck in my head,” Paige said. “‘Man, I love this place. I want to be here.'”