Former football standout fights his way to college field


Photo courtesy of Darius Maxwell

Former Wildcat Darius Maxwell poses in uniform before a game at Hastings College in Nebraska.

Darius Maxwell ‘17,  former football team captain and slot receiver, now plays for Hastings College in Nebraska. After a few months of playing college ball, Maxwell said that now football is not only his passion but also his job.

“The transition was kind of hard because the pace of the game increased rapidly. Everything in college practice has to be done [quickly]. You get no days off,” Maxwell said.

In high school, coaches are building players and helping them achieve a goal.

“Coaches are more strict in college; it’s a business,” Maxwell said. “If you do not deliver, you will be replaced.”  

During the recruitment process,  Maxwell said he experienced a sense of false expectations.  

“Basically, they are selling you a dream, just to get you there,” he said.

Maxwell had to compete with two seniors for his spot with seven on seven team scrimmages. He said he was told that no spots were open, but he could compete for his spot and work his way up.    

According to Maxwell, on his first college gameday, the crowd was at least 670 people.  

“My adrenaline was pumping, and I was so nervous. I had to cancel out all the noise from the band and cheering audience to focus on the game. I wasn’t put in a lot the first game but by the third game, I played three quarters and by the fifth game, I played all four quarters and started on kick return,” Maxwell said.  

Head football coach Adam Ratkevich, who previously coached Maxwell, clarified the differences between recruitment and actual college play.

“Colleges will fly you out on a jet while feeding you a steak dinner, but if you don’t deliver, they’ll send you home on a bus with bologna sandwich,” Ratkevich said.  “When you first visit the college, it’s a vacation life. The other players take you out and show you the good life, and when you get there it’s boot camp, grind time.”

As head coach, Ratkevich’s main goal is to promote the players, send transcripts and make sure they take the right courses and they’re on the right path academically.

Maxwell had 14 college coaches visit him last year.  Last May, Ratkevich said 65 college coaches visited regarding current players.

“Darius is extremely quick, an undersized guy [who] has the heart of the lion,” Ratkevitch said.   

Assistant coach and defensive coordinator Adam Havrilesky said he played a big role in building Maxwell as a player and overseeing his path to becoming a man.

“Darius is quick, elusive [and] vertically challenged but made up for it with quick hands.  [He was an] outstanding captain,” Havrilesky said.  

Coaches and players chose Maxwell as one of the four captains because he was a vocal leader. Players respected him and looked up to him; they said he has a great work ethic and is always determined.

Maxwell’s best high school moment was the school’s the first defeat over Miramar into state playoffs in 10 years. According to Haverilesky, Maxwell made key catches in that game that got the team into the state playoffs.

Long time friend and former teammate, senior running back Keshaun Clarke played with Maxwell since his freshman year; they transferred to Western together. Clarke said Maxwell is humble  “determined, respectful and caring captain.” He doesn’t know anyone who worked as hard as Maxwell to make it where he is today.

“As a player, I gained a great work ethic, [from watching Maxwell],” Clarke said.  Maxwell used the words “busy, fun and focused”  to describe his overall college experience. Balancing his three classes and two rigorous practices a day, Maxwell said  focus is the key to success.

“When I have spare time, I sleep, [and] there’s barely anytime for that,” Maxwell said. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to get an education and pursue my passion full time.”