With under two minutes to play in last season’s Division 3 state title game, Muskegon faced a 3rd-and-goal down 23-21 to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. During a timeout, the Big Reds were discussing the play call when La’Darius Jefferson, then a junior, passionately promised his coaches the Eaglets would not stop him if his number was called.
They did, and he scored, giving the Big Reds a 28-23 lead. Unfortunately for Jefferson and his team, St. Mary’s mounted a late drive and won a 29-28 thriller at Ford Field.
With that memory still fueling this season’s playoff run, Jefferson’s focus is on that ring and not recruiting, although it has been an eventful week in that department. He was offered a scholarship by Michigan State on Thursday night, rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns while passing for another in a regional championship win over DeWitt on Saturday, then decommitted from Central Florida on Monday.
“Coach Dantonio called me at 8 p.m (last Thursday) and he had told me that I’m a great person and football player and that he wants to offer me a full-ride scholarship,” Jefferson said. “I’m definitely looking into State, and loved the place when I was there and love the family vibe and atmosphere and the coaching staff and so, I don’t know.”
Jefferson played for East Marion High School in Mississippi as a sophomore. He came to Muskegon in the winter following that season and began working with the team. His coaches and teammates called him “Mississippi” or “Sippi.”
Now they call him the leader of their team. As a junior, Jefferson totaled nearly 2,000 yards of offense, and that was while sharing time at quarterback with Virginia Tech-bound senior Kalil Pimpleton. At times, Jefferson was asked to play defense, and delivered there, too.
Some of the uncertainty over which position he might play in college led the Big Ten schools to wait on offering him last spring and summer. UCF offered him the chance to play quarterback, and with a former Nebraska quarterback in Scott Frost at the helm, Jefferson jumped at the opportunity.
This season, with Pimpleton in Blacksburg, Jefferson is a Mr. Football candidate. He has nearly 3,000 yards of total offense and 45 total touchdowns. Indiana and Iowa began to show interest, the Hoosiers as a quarterback.
Michigan State is not certain which position he will end up playing, the Spartans just know they want him on their side.
“The offer is as an athlete,” Jefferson said.
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with athleticism, toughness, and plenty of leadership qualities, there are a lot of options for Jefferson.
“I still think at the end of the day he could end up playing quarterback at Michigan State,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield told 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong. “Michigan State is giving him an opportunity to get on campus and prove himself, and if he doesn’t play quarterback, he’s a 220-pound running back.”
Jefferson said he just wants to play football.
He wants to do that in a Big Reds uniform for two more weeks as well.
Muskegon plays Battle Creek Harper Creek in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at East Kentwood.
Jefferson will take his official visit to Michigan State in December.
Visitors this weekend
As of now, Saturday’s home game against Maryland will have a handful of unofficial visitors at it.
Two in-state juniors, Grand Rapids South Christian offensive tackle Spencer Holstege and Zeeland East running back Josh Fusco, are planning to be there. This will be Holstege’s second game visit this year.
Chicago De La Salle senior linebacker Joseph Bonds will visit as well. Bonds, a one-time Western Michigan commit, is a 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect who does not hold an offer from the Spartans at this time.
Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.