Darius Philon sat on stage in front of his friends and peers at Vigor High School in Mobile, Ala., with a crimson Alabama baseball cap sitting in front of him.
This moment, on national signing day in 2012, is supposed to be one of the happiest for a high school football star such as Philon. It's when he'll tell everyone in the community that he'll be going to his dream school — his hometown school.
It's when he'll tell everyone he's accepted a scholarship to attend Alabama.
But things don't always go as planned. And that moment, it was one of the hardest days of Philon's life.
“At the time, that day was horrible for me,” the defensive tackle said this week as he and the Chargers prepared for Sunday’s home game against the Buffalo Bills.
A week before signing day, Philon had been told his scholarship offer at Alabama needed to be postponed a semester. The school and coach Nick Saban wanted him to “grayshirt” — attend the school for one semester on his own dime before starting on scholarship in the spring.
But Philon's family couldn't afford it.
Alabama, it turned out, had secured commitments from players it valued more highly, and because the rules only allow for so many scholarships per season, Philon's dreams were going to be a necessary casualty.
“That was crazy,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “They kind of did him dirty.”
After the scholarship snafu, Philon signed to play at Arkansas with Henry, and he quickly impressed his new teammates with his combination of size, strength and athleticism.
"He's always had this quickness, this explosion for his size," Henry said. "He was just different."
With two seasons of eligibility remaining and his first son about to be born, Philon left college for the NFL. The Chargers snatched him up in the sixth round, playing him sparingly in his first year.
Chargers' Darius Philon living the dream after learning to take setbacks in stride
Los Angeles Times | Nov 19