After De’Marius Staton signed with St. Augustine’s on Wednesday, Triton coach Ben Penny said it was his proudest moment as a head coach.
It was more about what Staton did in the classroom than what he did on the field during his four years on the varsity, although his playing accomplishments were considerable.
“You don’t see many turn it around like he did academically speaking,” Penny said. “He’s always been a person of high character. The last four semesters, he’s gone from a non-qualifier. Now, he just received a letter for the National Honor Society in his senior year. Very proud of him.”
Staton has said he doesn’t really know how he got the nickname, Noonie. His family has called him that since he was little. It’s been a long time since Staton was little. He was big enough to contribute on the Hawk varsity as a freshman when he rushed 60 times for 281 yards with two touchdowns. He had 11 catches for 141 yards. He also made two tackles.
In 2015 as a sophomore, Staton had 98 carries for 567 yards and five TDs. He made 11 catches for 133 yards and had 16 solo tackles.
His junior year, he had 1,089 all-purpose yards. He ran 153 times for 942 yards with nine scores and hauled in seven passes for 147 yards with three scores. Staton also had 16 solo stops as Triton went 8-4 and ragained the Dan Richards Trophy as Harnett County champions.
As a senior, Staton played some snaps at quarterback. He completed five of nine passes for 110 yards with a game-changing touchdown toss in a 28-0 win at Western Harnett. Staton ran 178 times for 1,150 yards with 10 touchdowns. He had five catches for 51 yards. Defensively, Staton played linebacker and also was on the defensive front with 14 solo stops and five assists.
He was a first team All-Tri-County Six 3-A Conference player at running back for the 2017 season.
“Noonie has been a part of us for four years, every since my first game as head coach here at Triton,” Penny said. “He was one of the lone bright spots that year (2014). That was a tough year for the program.”
Staton wore No. 35 as a freshman, but had No. 6 the rest of his career with the Hawks.
“He deserves just as much credit as any of us coaches in turning the program around,” Penny said. “He’s been a leader since he was 14 years old when he stepped foot on campus.”
The Hawks went through a winless season in 2014.
“He knew what it was like to not be very successful and the hard work that you have to put in to start winning football games,” Penny said. “He deserves a lot of credit in the last four years of turning the program around. He was all-in from the get-go. … There were several times in practice that we would make him a line leader. It’s a big thing to buy in and believe the coaches and understand the process and where we’re trying to be.
“As far as being just a pure running back, he’s gotten better every year. His hands have improved. His field vision has improved and his leadership has improved. Defensively, anywhere we ever needed him he would play. I’ll never forget the Western Harnett game, making a big stop on fourth down at noseguard and then coming in at quarterback and throwing a touchdown pass. That was the first time he had played quarterback his whole life.”
Staton’s first high school pass on that Oct. 6 game at Western went for eight yards to regular quarterback Justin Leggett. Then Staton lofted a bomb that Jarrell Cowan ran under for a 56-yard score. The Hawks had not crossed midfield until the aerial jump start from Staton.
Chowan was interested in Staton initially.
“They had a recruiting fair at Cary High School that we went to,” Penny said. “Coach (Derek) Mangum and I kind of met with the St. Aug’s coaches. We kind of met with a lot of the area coaches. (St. Augustine’s) liked him from the start, as soon as they saw his film. They saw a big, athletic young man that can do a lot of things. They had their eye on him to begin with on the offensive side of the ball but the more they did evaluating, he’s probably going to go in as a defensive athlete.
“They’re a spread offense, obviously. They don’t use a fullback, but anywhere he plays he’s going to excel.”
Staton is pleased with the opportunity to go to the next level. St. Aug’s is coached by Tim Chavous and plays its home games on campus at the George Williams Athletic Complex. The Falcons were 5-5 last season, 5-2 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
“It’s always been a dream since I was a young’un to play college football,” Staton said. “I’m just so happy. It’s a blessing.”
Staton has been applying himself in the weight room in preparation.
“Trying to get bigger, stronger, faster,” Staton said. “I’ve been out doing cone drills to work on my agility. I think I should be good going into camp.”
Staton, listed on the Triton roster at 6 feet and 220 pounds, maxes out in the bench press in the 280-285-pound range. His 40-yard time is 4.75 seconds.
“When I went on my official visit, they thought about me playing on the defensive side of the ball, like an outside linebacker-type and use my speed to get off the edge and sack the quarterback,” Staton said.
Staton wants to study business.
The traditional college football signing date has been the first Wednesday in February. An earlier signing date in December has been instituted. Penny noted that William Corbin, who played four years at Appalachian State, was the last Hawk to sign at the traditional time.
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