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Friday Night Hero: Salisbury’s Darien Rankin

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
Joe Pinyan had this problem when he walked into the all-conference meeting earlier this week.
What position would he nominate junior Darien Rankin for?
Rankin is definitely all-conference material. But at Salisbury, he plays the Hornet position, which is part defensive end, part linebacker and part safety.
So Pinyan did the next best thing. He nominated Rankin for CCC Defensive Player of the Year.
When defensive coordinator Ryan Crowder heard Rankin was this week’s Friday Night Hero, he responded with, “He’s got the stats to be Friday Night Hero every week.”
Rankin, who stands 6-foot-1, was thought of as a basketball player first coming into the season. But his attitude changed after a talk with a former Hornet star
“I like both sports,” Rankin said. “But the person who really put football into me was Scotty Robinson.”
Robinson was just like Rankin when he was at Salisbury. He was talented but hadn’t hit the weight room with force. Now, he’s a behemoth and a current senior starter for East Carolina, getting his name called on national TV.
“He told me I need to work in the weight room,” Rankin said. “He told me if I wanted to play, I can’t have an attitude. I have to stay focused and listen to my coaches.”
That has happened. This athletic specimen has coaches watching plays on film with mouths agape.
“Sometimes, you’re like, ‘How? How did he do that? How did he jump so high or dive that way?’ ” said Rankin’s position coach David Johnson. “He makes me look good as a coach.”
Crowder added of the film sessions, “You say, ‘There’s no way he should’ve gotten there.’ He just flies in out of the blue and there’s a hand knocking down the ball.”
Crowder said Rankin is different from other players who have taken on the Hornet position. There have been some good ones, too, like Nathaniel Neptune and Ryan Folks.
“In the past, a lot would be good at one aspect,” Crowder said. “Darien’s good at all three.”
When Rankin was a freshman, he was a running back. Crowder says he could be a heck of a wide receiver.
Rankin showed his offensive skills in a 49-7 win against East Davidson last week. He returned a punt 40 yards.
“It felt really good,” Rankin grinned.
Listening to Robinson’s weight-room pitch has paid off.
“He bench-presses people off him,” Johnson said.
Crowder pointed to the 16-tackle effort against unbeaten West Rowan.
“Even those guys couldn’t block him on the edge,” he said.
East Burke will be the next opponent to get an up-close view of Rankin’s talents. It’s a good bet their coaches will be wide-eyed next week when they watch the film.
“His athletic ability enables him to do things people wish they could do,” Pinyan said.
Just for the record, Jason Causby is expecting Rankin to be a star ó again ó for his basketball team. But hitting jumpers will have to wait until he’s through hitting people in football.
“He’s starting to realize football may be his ticket,” Pinyan said. “He’s definitely a Division I prospect. It’s just a matter of what he wants to do.”
Face it. Darien Rankin is a hero in whatever sport he’s playing.

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