Like a lot of kids growing up in Indiana, Darius Latham had visions of being an NCAA Division I basketball player.
His body had other ideas.
Latham ultimately topped out at 6-foot-5 and currently he weighs about 285 pounds. He quickly came to the conclusion during high school at North Central in Indianapolis that football would provide him with more opportunities.
Indeed, with more than 20 scholarship offers in hand, Latham gave an oral commitment to the University of Wisconsin football team on Tuesday.
“It just was the right opportunity for me,” Latham said, indicating his other final schools were Indiana, Tennessee and Florida. “Everything was in line right, a chance to get to the league (NFL), a good school, not too far from home.”
And he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.
Taj Darby is an assistant football coach at North Central and helped out with Latham’s recruiting.
During a trip to UW, Darby said Latham talked to strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert about a technique problem he was having with the squat. Darby said Herbert quickly got the problem corrected.
“I can’t imagine what he’s going to be like, even after a year’s time, being in the weight room with them,” Darby said. “He’s never really been solely football. It’s been football and basketball. He’s never been in a true weight regiment. He’s going to be awesome.”
Latham also plays on North Central’s powerhouse basketball team, as well as on an AAU team called the Eric Gordon All-Stars.
“He was living the hoop dream,” Darby said of Latham’s basketball preference growing up. “We’re Indiana, we’re Hoosiers, right? We play basketball.”
Darby said Latham did not yet have any scholarship offers in basketball, but added, “He’s good enough to play (college) basketball.”
“The case came where Darius knew he really wasn’t growing any more,” Darby said. “The sport chose you, the decision was kind of made for him and he’s embraced it and taken off with it.”
With his basketball background, it’s not surprising Latham has special athletic abilities for his size. Darby said the UW coaches brought up former Badgers defensive end J.J. Watt — who was a first-round draft pick of the Houston Texans — for comparisons.
“He’s a dancing bear, he has nifty feet,” Darby said.
“Basketball has helped Darius tremendously. It’s kept him in shape ... facing some of the best basketball players in the country ... he has went to AAU tournaments, traveling all across the country and guarding these guys.”
Latham is a good student and said he has a 3.0 grade-point average. He said his plan right now is to graduate early and enroll at UW in January.
He credits his mom for his athleticism and work ethic. Cori Latham was a two-sport athlete at North Central, participating in basketball and track and field.
Darby recalled seeing Darius Latham run stadium steps one hot day with a weighted backpack.
“He’s the ultimate competitor, no matter what he’s playing,” Darby said. “Darius is going to refuse to lose. He gets his teammates better.
“Darius demands that everyone around him gets better. He holds people accountable. That’s what I love about him.”