The 2016 season was to be one to remember for Piqua (Ohio) running back / linebacker Darien Tipps-Clemons as he looked to add to his junior season totals of 1,664 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns while also posting 53 total tackles on defense.
Earning one of three captain positions, Tipps-Clemons and his teammates were looking to push towards a deeper run in the playoffs after going out in week one last season.
However, the future Michigan State Spartans linebacker quickly learned last Friday night that dream seasons can be taken away with one play.
After opening the season with a 126-yard, one touchdown performance and six tackles on defense in a 48-0 win over Meadowdale. Tipps-Clemons saw his high school career come to an end with the ball in his hands making a cut that he’s made hundreds of times since he started playing the game.
“It was just a sweep to the outside,” explained Tipps-Clemons. “I was running and went to make a cut up field. It was then I felt my knew pop. It hurt pretty bad and started to crawl off the field. When the trainer came over, I told her it popped.”
It was at that time Tipps-Clemons learned quickly not to take the game for granted.
“I was like dang,” he said. “This really hurts and I knew I wasn’t getting back in the game. When they started to do the test to see what was wrong with it. I told them don’t be afraid to tell me what it was. The trainer said she thought it was my ACL so I knew there wasn’t anything they could do about it now.”
Despite the pain he was feeling from the injury Tipps-Clemons also saw some doubt creep into his mind about his future at Michigan State as he’s heard of colleges dropping players following injuries like his.
However, he also knew when he made his pledge to the Spartans, head coach Mark Dantonio was a man of integrity and quickly put it to the back of his mind.
“I was worried a tad bit because I wasn’t sure how college coaches would react to one of their commits being injured,” he said. “But Coach Dantonio and everybody on the staff was cool about it. Friday night I messaged Coach (Harlon) Barnett and told him that I had hurt me knee and was having an MRI the next day. I told him I would call him when I got the results. He said he would be praying for me.
“I called when I got the results and he said everything would be ok and told me to get better and that they were thinking about me. He said they’ve seen far worse with guys coming back better than ever. He also said it was better to happen early than late in the season.
“That kind of put me at ease and the next day I spoke with Coach Dantonio and he said I need not to worry about anything and that they had my back. I was really happy about that because I didn’t know how he was going to take it. I know college football is a business, but it was cool he said everything was good.”
With his surgery approaching Tipps-Clemons knows soon he’ll be attacking his rehabilitation like he attacked defenders. He also knows he’s still a team leader with players still looking up to him for leadership.
“My surgery is tomorrow morning,” he said. “It’s been real hard seeing everyone practice knowing I can never practice or play with the guys I’ve played football with from youth football on up. I’ve told them not to take things for granted because it can be over in a second.
“It’s hard knowing I’ll never put the pads on with them again or run out onto the field with them again. So I told them to savor everything. To be honest it really sucks. It sucks really bad. But I can’t do anything about it. I had a good season last year. A good high school career. But I came up short my senior year. I keep letting them know they have to keep going because this is not a joke.”
With plans to enroll early at Michigan State, Tipps-Clemons is now looking to get back on campus as soon as possible.
“I’m thinking of taking my official during Michigan week,” he continued. “But some guys are talking about taking their officials during Northwestern week. We’re trying to get a weekend where we can get as many guys as possible so everyone gets a chance to know each other. But now I want to get up there for the Wisconsin game. That is when I really want to get back to campus after this surgery.”
The following film was from the first game of this season.