Michigan assistant Darrell Funk made his way to Cedar Hill (Tex.) yesterday to check in on four-star…
FREE: Lodge Talks Breakout Year, SMU Offer
After slipping the first time, DaMarkus Lodge goes back to the front of the line for another shot at the three-cone drill.
Coach David Robinson --D-Rob or Coach Rob for short-- tells him, "You're a bigger receiver so you need to get lower. You're up here. You need to be down here." Lodge takes in what he says carefully. When Robinson speaks, he listens.
Lodge trots back to the cones and demands to go through the drill again. This time it's perfection. Robinson just smiles and gives him a head nod. He knows his determination will make Lodge great one day.
While most other high school juniors are sleeping in or playing video games or getting involved in some sort of mischief in South Dallas, Lodge, a four-star wide receiver out of Cedar Hill, is spending his Saturday morning training with Robinson and a few other prospects who truly are serious about playing college football. And on Sunday afternoon, he'll be back out there again.
Lodge might have already established himself as one of the top recruits in the nation, but there is no way he's grown complacent. ‘No days off' is his mantra.
So what drives him?
"I have a big goal in life. I want to make sure my mom is taken care of. I just want to take care of her," Lodge said. "I know what I have to do to play college football and hopefully play in the NFL, so I come out here in great spirits every day. You have to love this to do this every day."
Robinson trains some of the top receivers in the Dallas-area including Texas commit Emmanuel Porter and Purdue commit Trae Hart. A former Oklahoma wide out, Robinson has dedicated his life to helping raw high school receivers reach their potential.
Three years ago, Lodge, then a tall, lanky kid with no type of interest from colleges, began working with Robinson. At that time, no one could have predicted that Lodge would develop into possibly one of the best wide receivers to ever come out of the Dallas-area. But Robinson saw something special in him from Day 1.
"It's kind of crazy. The first workout I did with Coach Rob, he told me that I had the potential to be the best in the country. I really didn't believe him. I wasn't too confident in myself," Lodge said. "As time went on, I started seeing it, and he kept me positive and humble. He's grown me as a young man and as a player too, so here I am now."
While training with Robinson, Lodge began to see tremendous improvement. But it didn't necessarily transition to the field. At state powerhouse Cedar Hill competition is fierce, and Lodge spent his sophomore season on the bench behind multiple FBS recruits.
He admits that at first, it wasn't easy. He knew, if given an opportunity, he could go out there and dominate. But Lodge eventually realized that not playing was actually a blessing in disguise.
"I was pretty mad, but I knew my time was coming. The No. 1 thing I learned was you can't be selfish so I just waited and stayed patient," Lodge said. "I learned a lot from (Ole Miss wide receiver) Quincy Adeboyejo that season. He was even out here with me training with Coach Rob, and I picked up on a lot of things. I do a lot of what he does so now I'm actually glad that I got to sit behind him."
Becoming A Champion
Down 24-10 with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter of the 5A Division II state championship game, Cedar Hill was desperately in need of a big play. On fourth-and-3, Lodge took a direct snap, got past a couple of Katy defenders and raced 61 yards to the end zone.
The touchdown was Lodge's most important of the season and gave Cedar Hill life.
"I didn't even know it was fourth down to be honest with you. I really didn't until after the game," Lodge said with a laugh. "Scoring that touchdown for my team meant a lot to me. I pretty much knew we were going to come back after that because of the crowd and the momentum."
Cedar Hill did in fact roar back. Lodge's score sparked 20 unanswered points as the Longhorns avenged last year's loss to Katy -- a game Lodge saw almost no time in-- which prevented them from being crowned champions.
But this year, Lodge made the difference. His play on the field, attitude and leadership helped inspire those around him to go that extra mile just like he does on those weekends he spends training with Coach Rob.
"It's not just a team. It's a brotherhood. We have a family," Lodge said. "Whatever I needed to do for my brothers I did. In that game, we did what we had to do for each other, and we did it. We won. It felt great."
Hoisting that trophy was the perfecting ending to Lodge's breakout season. When Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire finally turned this Longhorn loose, he didn't disappoint.
Lodge was even better than those who preceded him, recording 72 receptions for 1,255 yards and 22 touchdowns.
"Winning state meant a lot to me personally," Lodge said. "Most people didn't think I was going to live up to Quincy Adeboyejo. They didn't think I was going to be as good as he was. Helping my team win state showed them what I could do."
Even before his stellar junior campaign, colleges were already infatuated with Lodge. The 6-foot-2, 188-pounder put on an amazing show at camps and had an array of big time offers by the time August rolled around. Now, he has over 20.
Earlier this month, Lodge put out his early top-10, which included Baylor, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and UCLA. But Lodge says anything can happen between now and next February.
"Those are just the coaches that I'm really talking to and hearing from the most. That's pretty much why those schools are the top schools," he said. "No one really has a lead on anybody, and I'm still talking to everybody."
Last week, SMU finally decided to get in the mix with an offer of its own.
It's not often SMU sends out offers to Cedar Hill players despite the fact that the Longhorns constantly produce some of the top talent in the metroplex. Oklahoma pledge Marcus Green was even quoted saying that quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison told him ‘he didn't even know he was recruiting Cedar Hill.'
And it's clear the Mustangs are late to the game with Lodge. So do they still have a chance?
"I didn't even know SMU had offered me until my dad told me. If he wouldn't have told me, I wouldn't have even known," Lodge said. "I haven't talked to any of their coaches so it was a surprise to me.
"SMU has great academics so that's great. Being close to home and my parents would be great too. But I really don't know much about them. I would have to go up there and meet the coaching staff so we'll see."
In other words, if SMU wants a realistic shot at landing Lodge, the staff better get moving and start developing a personal relationship with him. The dead period is over. There is no excuse.
If SMU ever wants to be better than mediocre, more effort needs to be shown on the trail. Lodge is willing to at least listen to what SMU has to say so the obvious move is to get in contact-- now.
While he continues to field calls from other schools, Lodge is making sure he's staying focused on his main goal for 2014.
"The big thing for me is getting back to state," he said. "I want to be better than I was last season. I have to work even hard and be a better leader for my team. I'm not satisfied."