Durham leads OC Vision

There's a part of a mission statement for a local youth basketball club that reads: OC Vision Basketball is dedicated to offering each member in our program the unique opportunity to enhance and build their talents, character, and confidence through motivation, dedication, self-discipline and commitment.

As for leadership, Darius Durham provides the unique opportunity. He can speak from experience.

At 50 his voice is treasured for this different basketball club based in Newport Coast. Durham knows about hard work, struggle, victory, adversity and redemption, and how it can mold a boy into a man.

Durham is the athletic director for OC Vision Basketball, a club that focuses a great deal on development. The club also uses the game as a platform to encourage positive traits used for life skills.

Do they want to win? Sure. Durham is around to lead the way for that too.

The former pro wide receiver found a way to win from a life that began in Compton. Durham, his three sisters and brother were raised by a single mother, Mary, who wanted the best life for her kids.

"Her whole goal was to give us a better perspective on life," Durham said last week just before practice at the Newport Coast Community Center. "In Compton, there was only one ethnicity and it was predominantly black. She thought if we grew up we would only see one perspective and one mentality and she didn't want that to happen."

Durham said his mother took a chance and moved the family to Garden Grove even though it meant they would struggle financially.

It turned out to be the right move.

"That was the biggest lesson I had in life," he said. "I could see life from a different perspective."

Athletics also helped Durham, while he became a three-sport star at Bolsa Grande High. He was an elite football player who also stood out in basketball and track and field.

He remembers as a freshman telling his mother that he would become a professional football player while he trained in the front yard.

"She looked at me like I didn't have my mind the right way," Durham said with a chuckle.

But Durham knew it could become true because he was willing to put in the work and, "I was willing to do the research without a computer," he said. "I would watch the best college and pro receivers. I would take something away from their games and mesh it with mine. James Lofton, John Jefferson, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Lynn Swann, on and on, guys like that."

Soon Durham was on a different level while playing football at Bolsa Grande. By 1979, he had several colleges seeking his services. He went to play at San Diego State where he became one of the Aztecs top receivers. He led the team in receiving his junior year. He's No. 14 on the all-time career receptions list at San Diego State.

After San Diego State, Durham's dreams came true as he became a pro. But the dream wasn't all good. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1983. Durham called the team a mess. The Bucs went 2-14 and eventually released Durham.

But being released turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Durham was picked up by Bill Walsh to play for the San Francisco 49ers.

Durham said he had reached the pinnacle of his career, catching passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. But more adversity came in the form of a knee injury. Later that season, the 49ers won Super Bowl XIX against the Miami Dolphins.

"It was the worst feeling to have to watch that," Durham said. "I was 22 at the time. I was thinking: 'Why can't I be out there?'

"My uncle told me, 'You got farther than most people have ever been.'"

Durham tried to return to football, but he said he knew he just didn't have it anymore. Being turned away from a professional football career challenged Durham. He did his best to recall the life experiences he learned in high school. He did his best to use all the traits he used to get to the top.

But even that didn't seem like enough.

"Making that transition from pro sports to real life, it is very difficult," Durham said. "It took me a while."

He worked jobs in customer service and sales. He also worked with the Boys & Girls Club. Now, the father of three who lives in Garden Grove with his wife, Anne-Maree, has found his niche, leading the small basketball club that trains players from all over Southern California.

Durham works with 13 kids, as the club continues to grow. Football made a big impact on Durham's life, but he said he enjoys teaching basketball. The game is a way for him to connect to the kids. He said, the young players have helped him too, as they have united and followed his way.

He said Shan Dharod, Sebastian Hooshmand and Chris Cox are players who have helped him form great team chemistry and a positive atmosphere.

"The goal is to impact the kids," Durham said. "I'm more concerned about making sure I have the parents realize that my ultimate goal is to have each of these kids treated as if they were my own. I want to see them grow and I want to see them learn. That doesn't matter if the group is 15 or if it's 500."

Durham will be there to lead.


Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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