Darrius Heyward-Bey’s journey to the NFL began at McDonogh, a private high school in Owings Mills, Md., that’s long played its football games sans stadium lights.
According to the school’s website, Heyward-Bey recently purchased lights for John McDonogh Stadium, fulfilling a promise he made to Athletic Director Mickey Deegan in 2005, his senior year at the school.
“We were on the sidelines, and Darrius asked me why we didn’t have lights in the stadium,” recalled Deegan. “When I told him lights were expensive and it would take a very generous gift to make that happen, he put his arm around my shoulders and said, ‘Ms. Deegan, when I go pro I’m going to buy you some lights…because night games are what high school football is all about.’”
Beginning this fall, McDonogh’s football team will be capable of experiencing the Friday night lights. This was one of the driving forces behind the gift from Heyward-Bey, who signed a one-year, $795,000 contract with the Steelers on April 2.
“On every level, night games are exciting,” Heyward-Bey said. “Young players dream of playing under the lights, but the reality is that 95% of athletes don’t play after high school. I’m glad McDonogh football players will now have that opportunity.”
Delving deeper, DHB was just glad to play the role of humanitarian for his alma mater.
“Giving back is showing that you appreciate where you come from, and McDonogh is where I come from,” Heyward-Bey said. “I learned so much from my teachers and coaches. I would not be the person I am today if McDonogh was not along my path in life.”
No one will ever confuse Heyward-Bey for an NFL superstar. The No. 7 overall pick by the Raiders in the 2009 draft, he’s earned quite a bit of notoriety in recent years, failing to live up to his once-hyped status.
But even if he doesn’t get his career back on track in Pittsburgh, he’s made an immeasurable impact, ironically enough, right in the Ravens’ backyard.
(Photo credit: Michael Conroy/AP)