Derion Kendrick can do a lot of things for South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.), but what he won’t do is hide Friday when the No 12-ranked Stallions play host to rival Northwestern (Rock Hill) Friday night in both team’s opener.
South Pointe coach Strait Herron laughs when asked if he would like to camouflage Kendrick by having him wear a number other than No. 1.
“That’s not a big concern for him,” Herron said. “He likes people to know who he is. He likes the spotlight. He would never let me change his number.”
Kendrick primarily played quarterback last season while leading the Stallions to the AAAA state title, the team’s third consecutive state title. The 6-1, 190-pound senior is expected to play wide receiver next season at Clemson, though there’s a possibility he could be a free safety for the Tigers.
“Since he’s been here, he’s played every skill position we’ve had,” Herron said. “The only position I wouldn’t put him at is the offensive or defensive line. He’s played linebacker, he’s played free safety, he’s played the corner, he’s played slot receiver and outside receiver. Any skill position, he could do it.”
Kendrick threw five touchdown passes in his team’s championship win, capping a season where he threw 37 touchdown passes and for more than 3,300 yards while running for more than 600 yards and eight touchdown. He also saw spot duty in the secondary and at receiver.
Herron said Kendrick is blessed with natural ability.
“I saw him throw a pass 60 yards when he was in the ninth grade,” Herron said. “I already knew he could run and you could see there was something special about him. His freshman year, we brought him up for the playoffs and watching him catch the ball was just different from everyone else. The spring of his freshman year, I called (Clemson assistant) Jeff Scott and said ‘I’m just letting you know we have a player that I would characterize as close to Stephon Gilmore (a New England Patriots cornerback who played for South Pointe and South Carolina).’ Once Jeff found out, he had him up at their camp and once he had him at the camp, Jeff said, ‘He’s one of the best we’ve had up here.’ ”
Kendrick grew up playing with the Rock Hill Cowboys, a youth football program that has lost one game over the past seven years.
“In youth football, he played quarterback and safety,” Cowboys director Thomas Richmond said. “Off that team, we had eight players who have Division I scholarships now. They all had to learn to play together. He had that little more bit of explosion. He just had that uncanny ability. But, there were a lot of kids on that team who were pretty good too. All of our boys have to compete for a position.”
Many of the Kendrick’s teammates at South Pointe have played with him since he was nine, including defensive end Eli Adams, linebacker-wide receiver B.J. Davis, and cornerback Keith Currence. Some of his former Cowboy teammates wound up at this week’s opponent, Northwestern. Though it’s not a region game, the battle for in-town bragging rights drums up the hype for the game. Northwestern has won three state titles since 2010.
“It’s become a huge rivalry in Rock Hill,” Herron said. “It’s just because it is two well-matched program. The guys live in the same neighborhoods and have known each other since youth ball. One of us is always ranked high, but to us, it’s hard to get people to understand that it doesn’t mean anything for the points system. We have to use our first five games to get ready for the region season.”