Jeff Snuffer has heard it often in a lengthy coaching career at Western Alamance High School in Elon College.
A father comes up and starts telling Snuffer that he has a young son whose going to be a good player. The situation is repeated often, but usually the athlete doesn’t live up to the father’s hype.
That wasn’t true in the case of Darius Pinnix Jr. His father, Darius Sr., was a star defensive lineman and backup running back for Western when Snuffer was an assistant coach at the school.
“His dad was a very good defensive lineman for us and ran a little for me,” Snuffer said. “He was always telling me about how good his son was going to be, and he was correct.”
The younger Pinnix has become a do-it-all all star for Snuffer and Western Alamance the last two seasons. It’s that versatility that attracted the attention of coaches from schools like Appalachian State, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Virginia and Wake Forest, all of whom offered Pinnix scholarships.
But as one of the first major programs to express an interest in Pinnix, East Carolina gained an upper hand early in the process and it paid off with a verbal commit from the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder on July 27.
The pledge came just over a month after the ECU coaching staff extended a scholarship for Pinnix to play linebacker.
“They said they’d probably start him off as a linebacker,” Snuffer said. “But they could also give him an opportunity as a running back or wide receiver. It just depends on what their needs are at the time he gets there. If they need depth at linebacker, he’ll play there. But if they need him at wide receiver of running back, he can do that, too.
“He’s the type of guy who can play anywhere. We’ve played him at quarterback, wide receiver, running back, safety, defensive end – he’s a multiple position guy. If we put him on the offensive line, he’d be great at that.”
Pinnix Jr., began showing flashes of the promise his father predicted late in his ninth grade year after earning a promotion from the Western Alamance JVs to the varsity. He appeared in two games at quarterback in which he completed four of five passes for 90 yards, while also gaining 37 yards on 10 rushes.
A starting role at running back was awarded Pinnix the following year and he responded by gaining 771 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns on 125 carries. But his contributions didn’t end there. Pinnix also produced 19 receptions for 280 yards and four more scores, while making 16 tackles, a tackle for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Pinnix was the second-leading rusher (109 carries, 871 yards, 12 touchdowns) and leading receiver (70 catches, 1,288 yards, eight touchdowns) last season on the way to first-team All-Mid-State 3-A Conference honors and a spot on the Greensboro News & Record’s All-Area second team.
In part-time work on defense, Pinnix had 13 tackles, a tackle for loss and two sacks.
“He can do so many things on both sides of the ball,” Snuffer said. “He is a complete football player.”
Snuffer recalls two plays Pinnix made last season against rival Burlington Williams that are examples of what his star can do on the football field.
“Defensively, he set the tone against Williams by making a sack on the their first offensive play,” Snuffer said. “In that same game, he caught a pass, stiff armed a couple of guys and left them on the ground while he gained a lot of yards. He’s like a man among boys out there. He makes certain plays that just stand out.”
Pinnix is the second linebacker prospect to make a commitment to ECU’s recruiting Class of 2017. He follows Da’Shaun Johnson from East Carteret High in Beaufort, NC, who joined the class in March.
Linebackers are believed to be a focus for ECU in this recruiting cycle, so it’s expected the Pirates will try to secure commitments from two or three more before national signing day in February.