This is the seventh in a series of profiles on the top 15 players on The Detroit News Blue Chip list. Today: No. 9, Muskegon athlete La’Darius Jefferson.
La’Darius Jefferson showed flashes of his potential during his junior year at Muskegon while splitting quarterback duties with Kalil Pimpleton and helping Muskegon reach the Division 3 state championship game at Ford Field, losing to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on the game’s final play.
With Pimpleton moving on to college, Jefferson inherited the No. 1 job on a full-time basis and took advantage of the situation to show his talent as a dual-threat quarterback, leading Muskegon back to the title game and this time finishing the job with a win over Farmington Hills Harrison.
Jefferson was at his best in the title game, putting on a show by rushing for 245 yards (32 carries) and four touchdowns in a 28-10 victory to give Muskegon its first state title since 2008, helping the Big Reds toss aside the disappointment of losing their previous four state championship game appearances.
Jefferson, who has a mixture of size (6-foot-2) and strength (215 pounds), finished the season with 2,095 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns, and throwing for 1,200 yards and 21 touchdowns. He will play next fall at Michigan State.
“I really didn’t set any goals, just wanted to have a better year than my junior year, finish out on top and win a state championship ring and do all I can for my community and for the seniors who were around me,” said Jefferson, who earned a spot on The News Dream Team as an athlete. “I really didn’t play for awards, they just came. Coach (Shane Fairfield) told me: Work hard and put the team first, and make it to the state championship and win it, and the rest will follow.
“Winning the state championship was so special, especially since it was our first one in eight or nine years. Just putting a smile on all the coaches’ faces because I know all the things they went through without winning it, putting a smile on all my teammates faces, remembering how they were crying from losing in the final minute against St. Mary’s. Yes, that was definitely my highlight.”
So, where did Jefferson feel he improved the most?
“I feel like I improved by being patient, letting the game come to me, being able to take what the defense gave me,” Jefferson said. “Sometimes you might not come out of the gate on fire or you might not have as many yards in the first quarter. I just realized, really taught myself that I had to be patient and then I started having a lot of big games during the season.
“I felt I got better every game. It’s all about getting a feel for the game, being patient and not rushing stuff, and knowing that I have a big arm I don’t have to force stuff, just be smart and take care of the ball.”
Jefferson was committed to play at Central Florida, which was the talk of the college football world last season, becoming the lone team in the FBS to go unbeaten (13-0), defeating Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
But, rumors during the end of the season had Central Florida coach Scott Frost possibly departing for a Power 5 Conference job, and Jefferson couldn’t get an answer from Frost on his status, leading to Jefferson de-committing and re-opening his recruitment.
When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio called, Jefferson listened and then said yes to the Spartans following his official visit in early December. And, Frost did leave Central Florida for Nebraska after UCF’s perfect season.
Now, Jefferson is thrilled with his future plans at Michigan State where he was recruited as an athlete with the possibility of playing quarterback. He owns a 3.5 grade-point-average and plans to major in engineering.
“Michigan State came to me a week before the DeWitt game,” Jefferson said. “The biggest thing about my decision to go to Michigan State is because I know I’m going to go somewhere and compete and be the best football player I know I can be and be the best young man and get my education so that’s the best place to go.
BLUE CHIP PROFILES