Editor's note: Last issue, Richmond Hill baseball player Matt Schlag was featured as one of the two Bryan County Athlete of the Month award winners. This week, Bryan County High School track standout Darrell McElroy is highlighted.
One athlete shined brighter than the rest in the sport of track and field this past season. Darrell "D.J." McElroy, merely a junior, stood out not just at BCHS, but throughout the entire region. His performance level peaked in the month of May when he made it to the state level in every category he performed in and ended up placing high in every one of those competitions.
McElroy dominated every region meet this past season. On May 10-12 at the 3A state competition in Jefferson, Georgia, McElroy placed second for the long jump with an impressive leap of 21 feet, 10.5 inches, fifth in the triple jump, sixth in the high hurdles and sixth as a member of the 400 meter relay team along with Alkeem Collins, Ivey Mutcherson and Willie Deloach.
To listen to his coach, McElroy has the right stuff.
"If there was a way I could catalog and pick out all the attributes of an athlete you would desire as a coach, D.J. McElroy is what I’d end up with," said BCHS head track coach Blake Nesmith. "Work ethic, attitude, speed, leadership – DJ encompasses all those qualities."
Earlier in the school year, as offensive coordinator for BCHS football, Nesmith worked closely with McElroy, who was the team’s quarterback. "I wouldn’t expect him to win an award like this (Athlete of the Month) for football because his stats aren’t through the roof for that sport, but he’s definitely our most valuable football player because of his leadership skills," said Nesmith.
"He led the team," said BCHS head football coach and athletic director Ron Lewis. "It was because of D.J. that we went to state for the first time this year. He’s the ultimate athlete. His leadership skills don’t go to his head either. He’s not selfish, he thinks in terms of the team as a whole.
"In the 17 years I’ve been doing this, he’s in my top five of all the athletes I’ve ever coached," Lewis continued. "He’s accountable for everything he does, and he’s a great role model for the rest of the kids. I wish everybody was like D.J."
McElroy also excels in basketball. This past year, he was crowned BCHS’s Athlete of the Year. He racked up a laundry list of awards for the individual sports this year as well. For track, he got the High Point Award, for football he got the Golden Helmet Award, and for basketball he got the Coach’s Award. He has won numerous awards in past years as well including the prestigious Red Bowers Award his sophomore year.
Although his sport of choice is football, McElroy is open to pursuing track on the college level if the right offer were to along.
"He wants to play college football, but, like me and Blake tell him, it seems like track may be the thing he gets the scholarship in," said Darrell’s mother, Maxine McElroy. "I encourage him to do the sports, but get the education and he agrees."
Darrell started playing sports at the age of nine when he entered the rec scene in football and basketball. He picked up track in the sixth grade.
"My ninth grade year, I was just going thru the motions with track until I made it to state that year in the triple jump," Darrell said. "I started to tell myself ‘you could really do this.’ That’s when I started to work hard at track and really trying."
He’s made it to state every year he’s been eligible and is determined to grasp a state title by the end of next season.
Darrell said his mother is his biggest supporter and is in the stands for every one of his sporting events.
"He keeps me going from August to April - football, basketball and track," said Maxine. "It’s exciting to see him do so well out there.
"He’s always loved sports since he was 8 years old," she added. "Being a mom, I’ve always been afraid he’d get hurt, but he was a tough kid. Sports just came natural to him. He’s always set his own goals, and I’ve always told him ‘you can be what you want to be.’ I’ve never pushed him, but he knows I’m behind him 100 percent."
"Off the field, D.J. is an outstanding person, and you’ve got to give credit to his mom for that," said Nesmith. "He never gets in trouble, he makes excellent grades. I’ve personally had him for two math classes and can say that he’s an excellent student. He’s smart, well-liked by all his classmates and he likes everybody too – you can’t get him to say anything bad about anybody."