The challenges facing Flint Southwestern Academy’s football program mirror those that face the school’s beleaguered city as a whole. The number of participants in the sport has declined in recent years, resources are lacking, and those issues were exacerbated by a government induced water crisis that made basic operations a chore. It is against that backdrop that the Knights’ 1-8 record is perfectly understandable. But none of those obstacles have stopped the team’s best player, four-star defensive lineman Deron Irving-Bey, from holding himself to a high standard.
“I think I could have done way better than I did this season,” Irving-Bey said matter-of-factly. “Staying true to my technique throughout the whole game… I should have done (better). That’s the biggest thing. I know throughout the game sometimes I would get a little sloppy. That’s when I would put myself back in check.”
The 6-5, 266-pounder’s best football is definitely ahead of him, which is why several Power Five programs are hoping he will choose to hone his game on their campuses. Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan, and Michigan State eventually emerged as the favorites, but to many this has always been a battle between in-state rivals.
The Spartans clearly had the initial edge thanks to an early spring offer and numerous spring/summer visits. The Wolverines then quickly began closing that gap.
A full-court press from defensive line coach Greg Mattison that featured a late spring offer and a memorable Barbecue at the Big House visit that blew the talented youngster and his mother away.
"It was a really good experience,” his mom, Dionne Richardson-Bey said afterward. “I liked that visit (more) than any other visits that we’ve been on. But like he has told people before, I’m a Michigan fan anyway! (Laughter). That was actually my first time being there and seeing the stadium. It was really great. I like the atmosphere, I like the communication, the closeness… it’s a real friendly staff. They kind have me reassured that if he came there he’d be in good hands.”
It was reasonable to question whether mom’s view was skewed by her lifelong affinity for the Maize & Blue. After all she did cry when she learned that the Wolverines had offered. Still, she insisted she would have come to the same conclusion about the quality of their trip to Ann Arbor even if she were stripped of her fandom.
“(Michigan) would still be the top visit,” said Richardson-Bey.
“The staff made me feel more comfortable with him coming there. The other places I’ve visited have been hit and miss…. talking to one person and then they’ve got to go talk to somebody else, but the main person who really knew we were coming we didn’t spend that much time with. (At Michigan) even though Coach Mattison was with other people too, he still came back to us and made us feel comfortable. He made sure we had everything we needed. We sat down and talked with him and coach Harbaugh, and that was really good for me.”
That trip was followed by a few fall unofficial visits to East Lansing, and even more to Ann Arbor. Irving-Bey later rounded his visit slate out with an “impressive” official visit to Maryland December 3rd and an official visit to Michigan December 10th.
His latest trip to Ann Arbor definitely left an indelible mark.
“It was good,” said Irving-Bey. “It was good!”
“The d-line class… almost all of the commits were there. I was talking to people that if I do go, are going to be (with me) at Michigan.
Looking to ride the wave of the mood during the weekend, Michigan’s headman aimed a clear message right at Irving-Bey.
“All the d-lineman had like a little meeting with Coach Harbaugh,” Irving-Bey recalled. “Everybody was committed in there except for me. (Harbaugh) said, ‘we’re all committed, right?’ Then everybody looked at me because they knew I wasn’t committed. Everybody started laughing. That’s when I was like, ‘I’m not committed.’
He said, ‘alright… we have to change that.’
The Army All American game on January 7th had been the date when the world would find out if Harbaugh was successful.
Irving-Bey announced earlier today that we won’t have to wait that long to find out all after all.