This Q&A session wasn’t supposed to involve football.
But when you’re talking to Darien Clemons, the subject is unavoidable. As we stand within an arm’s reach of Election Day, I asked the 3-star Michigan State linebacker commit for his opinion. He said he doesn’t take much of an interest in politics.
The 6-foot-1 Piqua (Ohio) senior feels he’ll be unaffected by election results “as long as I get to play football.”
So naturally, questions about life off the field cycle right back to the field. Clemons takes a lot of responsibility as a Michigan State commitment. He’s been to the majority of Spartans home games and he intends to be back for the final two against Rutgers and Ohio State, hanging out with recruits and rooting on his team.
Back in Ohio, he leads an interesting life with rehab for his injured knee, dreams of studying the brain and a childhood of crazy stunts.
Q: What would be your dream vacation spot?
Clemons: “My dream vacation would have to be on a beach somewhere. I’d probably say Florida. I’ve never been there, but most of the people in my family have been there. I haven’t had the chance to get down there yet, but I don’t know, man, just the weather down there, the beach, all that. It seems like a good time.”
Q: What would you do if you won $1 million?
Clemons: “If I won a million dollars, I wouldn’t go blow it. I’d get a decent house for a decent price. I’d put the rest of the money in the bank and I’d live off of it. I wouldn’t go spending it all like crazy. I’d use it for what I need, not for extra. I’d put it in the bank and live off the interest.”
Q: What’s your go-to snack?
Clemons: “Go-to snack? Gushers, for sure. I love ’em.”
Q: What TV show can you not miss an episode of?
Clemons: “To be honest, I don’t really watch TV too much. My thing is YouTube. I watch YouTube constantly. That’s basically my TV. I don’t really watch TV much. YouTube, I watch a lot of gaming videos, a lot of random stuff.”
Q: What’s a bad habit you need to kick?
Clemons: “Me not really wanting to do my knee rehab stuff, getting up like, ‘Ugh, I don’t wanna do it.’ I need to get that out of my mind and just get after it.
“I’ve got to get up and do it whenever, like a couple times a day. I do it, I’ve just got to get all this stuff out of my head. I need to get like, ‘This is what I need to do to get better.’ When I’m at home, I have to do that. I go to therapy two times a week, but the other times, I have to …”
Q: What song can you not stop listening to?
Clemons: “‘Ready or Not’ by the Fugees.”
Q: How would your friends describe you off the field?
Clemons: “Sometimes I’m quiet. Sometimes I’m energetic, hyped and ready to go, just ready to do stuff, just go crazy and do crazy stuff. But other times I’m chill, just wanna relax and hang out.”
Q: What do you mean by “crazy stuff”?
Clemons: “(My friends and I) used to go — not really cliff-jumping, but there’s this thing where you can go just jump off of this cliff into this huge body of water. We’d go do flips off it and go do crazy stuff off of it. Stuff like that.
“It was like right down the road by the river.”
Q: What’s your favorite subject in school?
Clemons: “(My favorite) subject in school would have to be science. … What I really, really, really want to do is be a neurologist, but that’s like way beyond me. I’ll sit and watch YouTube videos of the brain and how it works and how stuff affects it. I really want to do that, but it’s just like almost impossible for me, because I don’t have the requirements.”
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
Clemons: “(‘Beasts of No Nation.’) It’s a Netflix original, and it’s about a kid who his family in South Africa got murdered by this militia. He runs away into the jungle and gets adopted into this army, and they raised him from when he was little until he was a little bit older, and he was a child soldier, and it showed how he got there and what he had to do throughout the process and how he got away from it. It’s just a really good media because it really is the truth about stuff over there, because that stuff really does happen, and not a lot of people understand that it really does happen. It just really hits home.”
Q: Who’s your role model whom you’ve never met?
Clemons: “(Motivational speaker and Michigan State alumnus) Eric Thomas. I have one of his quotes tattooed on my ribs. He’s just a real inspiration to me because what he says is the truth, and I try to go by that: ‘When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.’ I got that tattooed on me because it really meant something to me, and I try to go by that.”
Q: When did you get that?
Clemons: “That was my first one. That was my 15th birthday.”
Q: What other tattoos do you have?
Clemons: “I have a quarter-sleeve of a timeless piece, and I have one on the inside of my biceps. It’s a scroll with a quote in it. I have one on my forearm, on the inside of my arm. It’s my two sisters’ and my mom’s birth dates in Roman numerals. Then I have three triangles on my middle finger, on the side of it.”
Q: What’s your biggest superstition?
Clemons: “I have to listen to music. If I don’t listen to music, then I feel weird. I used to almost get sick because I have really bad anxiety and it would get really bad before the game. I sometimes used to get sick before the game, and then I’d be all right.”
Q: When did that start?
Clemons: “That started right after our starting running back my sophomore year got injured and I had to start the next game. I wasn’t used to it, so I was super nervous.”
Q: What would you do to deal with that?
Clemons: “I used to just take ibuprofen to calm my nerves, and I’d listen to music and just chill before the game. I’d just sit in the locker room and let it build up.”
Q: Do you still have to do that?
Clemons: “I’m over that now. It’s all good.”
Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve had to overcome?
Clemons: “The biggest thing I have to overcome right now is my knee surgery and me tearing my ACL. It’s hard, but you’ve got to be mentally ready for it. You’ve got to want to get back at it and not be lazy and stuff.”
Q: How far along are you in the process?
Clemons: “It’s still early. I still have months of recovery and rehab, but I’m walking. At rehab, I’m doing squats. I’m riding the bike. I’m doing all this stuff and getting better.”
Q: What’s your most interesting hidden talent?
Clemons: “I can flip really well. Well, I used to be able to, like gymnastics-type stuff. I took (classes) when I was young.”
Q: Does that help you at all on the field?
Clemons: “Just based off the leg strength that builds up from flipping around all the time, yeah.”
Q: What actor would play you in a movie?
Clemons: “I’d want an athlete to play me. I’d probably want AP (Adrian Peterson) to play me.”
Q: What’s your biggest celebrity encounter?
Clemons: “Back when I was getting recruited by Ohio State, I got to meet (former Buckeyes running back) Ezekiel Elliott in the locker room after a game. That was pretty cool for me.
“I was just like, ‘Good game, Zeke. Good stuff out there.’ He said, ‘Thanks, bro,’ and straight up gave me a handshake. I thought that was really cool because being a running back, you want to be like Zeke.”
Q: Will you play any running back in college?
Clemons: “I’ll probably be exclusively a linebacker.”
Q: Was that your choice or theirs?
Clemons: “That was the coaches’ suggestions, and I’m going to listen to that, because that’s obviously where they would like me at, and that’s where they see me at. That’s what college football is, to build. It’s to bring what you have and let the coaches build on that, so if I bring my linebacker skills and they can help me out to get them to the next level, then I’m gonna take that.”