By Jay Cook
As a high school athlete, capturing that healthy balance between scholastics and athletics is key to success on and off the playing field. They are the two pillars on which college offers are dependent upon.
Yet when one student goes noticeably above and beyond in the classroom and during games, it is always an impressive spectacle. This is exactly the case for Red Bank Catholic’s Nasir Darnell.
Combining his 4.3 grade point average along with his 7.5 sacks this past season, Darnell is more than prepared for his next step in life: continuing his student athlete career at the illustrious Harvard University.
“I’ve been playing football since I was about six-years-old,” said Darnell, a Matawan resident. “It’s really been a part of my life, and imagining it being done after high school is something I didn’t want to do.”
For the past two seasons, Darnell has been a standout defensive lineman for the Caseys, a team led by former National Football League pro scout and assistant coach Frank Edgerly.
Despite a less-than-stellar season in 2016, which ended with RBC at 5-5, Darnell was a menace at defensive end all year long. His abil- ity to bend around tackles and set the edge against mobile quarterbacks and halfbacks made him stand out on film each week.
Donning the No. 6 jersey, with what came to be his trademark dreadlocks pouring out the back of his helmet, Darnell accounted for 31 hur- ries on opposing quarterbacks – a number so frightening for offensive lines that it was equally as exciting for his future college program.
Darnell ended his college search in late July, right before the Caseys began their preseason football activities. After receiving offers to play football at every single Ivy League school, he decided upon Harvard after three total visits to the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus.
“The process itself was a once in a lifetime process,” he said. “Just being able to say you have an of fer from ever y Ivy League school, that’s not something that everyone can say.”
It surely is a unique achievement, one that Darnell has already treasured in his young career. Those feelings really hit hard, maybe even as hard as he does to opposing passers.
“I don’t think many people would turn down going to Harvard,” Darnell said. “It’s a great atmosphere, and along with the facilities, everyone has a nice family sense to them.”
For Darnell to entertain offers from each of the Ivy League schools, his prowess in the classroom had to transcend that of the average student. That was evident though his scores on the SAT, where he scored a 2070 on the three- part version of the test; he blindsided the math section with 770 out of 800.
At RBC, he currently is taking AP Statistics and AP Calculus BC – the highest level of math of fered at the school.
Darnell has always considered himself a math guy, even dating back to his youth when his parents Jasmin and Terrence pushed his intellectual limits. In kindergarten, Darnell was completing third-grade level arithmetic with ease.
“They’ve always been there for me,” he said of his parents. “Sometimes they’d be up with me late nights, up with me finishing home- work. They always just push me to do my best and push me beyond.”
Although his high school football career has ended, and the scholastic year now enters the second half, the Caseys’ own math whiz has his sights set on preseason workouts in Cambridge for the Crimson. He wants to get a jump on the rest of the incoming freshman, so a move-in date of around late June or early July is a possibility.
A position change may also be in the works for one of the Shore Conference’s most feared pass rushers in 2016. After overpowering tack- les and guards the past two seasons as a defen- sive end, Darnell said a move to becoming an edge defender is a real possibility.
“I’ll probably be a little of both, it depends on where they want me,” he said. “I have a lit- tle experience at outside linebacker from when I was younger, but wherever they need me, I’m willing to play.”
While figuring out the playbook for his freshman campaign, the current Casey will also be figuring out his key area of study. He wants to work with numbers – go figure – and a major in business or engineering seems to be in the works.
Between Harvard’s classrooms and football field, there is a lot on Darnell’s plate for his future, but he is surely not one to shy away from the challenge.
“I think I’ll fare pretty well considering I’ve been balancing it my whole life,” he said. “I know with time management that will make things a lot easier, but I’m definitely ready for the challenge.”
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