Pelham’s Darius Copeland commits to Liberty to play college football
Published 5:19 pm Monday, June 5, 2023
By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor
PELHAM – Pelham Panthers receiver Darius Copeland only needed one word on social media to announce his decision to play football at Liberty University.
It’s a word that he echoed when talking about how he is settling in to summer practices after graduating from Pelham High School last month.
“Now that I’m here, I feel 100 percent like I’m glad I made the right decision,” Copeland said. “It feels like home.”
Over the last two seasons, Copeland grew into a crucial part of Pelham’s offense. He had a breakout season in 2021 as a junior, racking up over 1100 all-purpose yards, an average of 16.3 yards per reception and seven offensive touchdowns.
He transitioned into a more dedicated receiver role in 2022 and came flying out of the gate. In his five starts, he recorded 28 catches for 531 receiving yards and five receiving scores.
Despite suffering a season ending ACL injury in Week 5, Copeland’s 106.2 receiving yards per game was good enough to earn him a spot on the All-County First Team.
Even though the ACL injury could have impacted his chances at playing in college, Copeland said Liberty’s receivers coach Tony Washington believed in him, and that was all it took for the Flames to extend an offer.
“Coach Washington, me and him have been talking since I was a freshman,” Copeland said. “So, me and him have built a relationship, and it’s just been really strong. And ever since my senior year, he found out about my knee when I got injured, and he still had faith in me. And I have faith in him, too. So, I just really wanted him to be a coach for me someday.”
Copeland will join Liberty at a crucial time in their program. After spending the last five seasons as an FBS independent school, they will join Conference USA for the 2023 season.
They also have a first-year head coach in Jamey Chadwell, who spent the last six seasons on Coastal Carolina’s coaching staff. He notably led the Chanticleers to an undefeated regular season in 2020 and #12 finish in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Chadwell was known for his offensive prowess at Coastal. According to Pelham coach Mike Vickery, Chadwell’s playstyle makes Copeland the perfect fit at Liberty.
“He’s a dynamic player in small spaces, so they build a lot of their offense around guys who can be explosive in those one-on-one situations and those small spaces, and Darius is as good as anyone I’ve been around with one-on-one, breaking tackles and just being able to be dynamic within the offense,” coach Vickery said.
Add on the support system he now has at Liberty, and Copeland feels like he is set up for success in all aspects of his college experience.
“The brotherhood, the coaches are just great,” Copeland said. “The facility is great. The classroom is great. And not even that, it even brings us closer to God, the faith that we have and the trust that we have inside.”
Copeland joins former Panthers cornerback Jamal Miles at Liberty, who committed to the Flames back in December 2022. As coach Vickery noted, it’s an unusual situation to have two players from the same class go to the same football program, especially to an out-of-state school.
Copeland said Miles impacted his decision to go since they are close friends and have played together since they were five years old.
“We’ve always pushed each other to be the best we can be when we go against each other,” Copeland said. “Also, it’s always great to have teammates you know on your team to push you to be the best again.”
Copeland is grateful for his time at Pelham and believes it prepared him well to succeed at Liberty.
“High school prepared me really good for me to be a leader on the team, and hopefully one day I can be a leader up here,” Copeland said.
In his short time coaching Copeland, coach Vickery was impressed by his everyday work ethic.
“I think that Darius is a is a tremendous practice player,” coach Vickery said. “He loves to practice, he loves working at his craft, and he’s a guy that wants to get every rep, no matter if it’s in game or whether that’s on Tuesday practice and it’s hot outside. He’s a competitor and he wants to win. He wants to be the best. And that’s going to take him a long way.”