CENTRAL, S.C. (WSPA) – If it’s a Friday night from late August into mid-December, high school football will be on the minds of most people in Central, South Carolina.
Daniel High School has won seven state championships over the years and the Lions are expected to be in the hunt again in 2023.
It’s a school that’s produced plenty of major college football players and a couple of NFL first-round draft choices in the not-too-distant past.
“Myself, Jarvis Jenkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Shaq Lawson, the list goes on,” defensive lineman Deshaun Williams said.
He went from Daniel High School to Clemson University to play football. Williams played five seasons in the NFL since Clemson and signed to play with the Carolina Panthers in 2023.
Oh, wait. Williams is still naming former Daniel High School football stars. “Javis Austin, Terry Smith, the list goes on.”
Daniel High has shown an amazing ability to produce high-caliber football players for its size. Its enrollment is around 1,200.
However, let’s get back to Williams.
“Kevin Breedlove, High School All-American in 1999 who played at Georgia and the NFL. A lot of talent has come from Daniel.”
Williams got an up-close look at how much talent remains at Daniel High School.
The Lions visited Wofford College on August 8 for a joint practice with the Panthers during training camp in Spartanburg.
“It makes me feel old. Just to see these guys and see me grow,” Williams told 7NEWS after working out with the high school players.
“They (Daniel HS coaches) always saw a vision in me. As a high school guy, you don’t know what you’re doing. You just playing football, having fun. But to see the end game, see me here and know those guys, watching me play, it’s amazing.”
The Panthers made a big impression on Daniel’s Watson Young. The senior lineman has already announced plans to play football in college at Appalachian State University in 2024. Young is 6’3″ and weighs 280 pounds and he felt positively small compared to the pros.
“I was just over there sizing everybody up,” Young said. “Going around shaking hands and I was like, ‘nice to meet you.’ I was looking up at them and was like, ‘holy crap.'”
The Daniel Lions are coached by Jeff Fruster. The head coach was born in Central, played at Daniel High School, and is now the man in charge.
“It’s very community driven. Its still very much small town minded,” Fruster said.
“Everything not shutting down at five on Friday nights, but you might not see as many people because they’ll be going to the game. It still means quite a bit to everyone in Central, Clemson and Six Mile.”
“Death Valley” at Clemson is a less than ten-minute drive from Daniel High School. There are 12 former Lions on the current roster, many of them walk-ons, for the Tigers’ upcoming 2023 season.