SIDNEY — Sidney senior Darren Taborn is keeping the family tradition going and made it official on National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Taborn, a two-sport standout for the Yellow Jackets, signed a letter of intent in a ceremony at Sidney’s library to play football for Grand Valley State.
“It’s always a dream to play college football, or any college sport at any time,” Taborn said. “It’s a great opportunity for me, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Taborn was a four-year starting defensive back for Sidney and also played at receiver and on special teams. He was a three-time first team all-conference selection and was named second team all-Ohio in Division II last season as a defensive back, which he’ll play in college.
“I think these last two years have been my most hard-working years,” Taborn said. “I wasn’t getting the recognition I wanted at first, so I was like, ‘I just have to put my head down and work harder.’ That’s what I did, and offers started coming in.
“Now I’ve found a new home, no doubt about it. I love it there.”
Grand Valley, which is located near Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a Division II powerhouse. The Lakers have won four D-II titles since 2001, made the playoffs 17 times and won 16 conference titles.
The school has been near the top in D-II attendance nationally for the last decade and averaged nearly 10,000 fans per game last season. It has constantly updated Lubbers Stadium and its football facilities in the last decade and set a single-game attendance mark of nearly 17,000 in 2016.
“What stood out was the brotherhood and the winning environment,” Taborn said. “… It was a no-brainer. I felt like I need to be there. It’s home.”
He won’t have to look far for advice on how to manage being a scholarship athlete. His other brother Lorenzo Taborn played football at Bowling Green and older sister Celena plays basketball at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
“They’ve got my back,” Taborn said. “They’ll show me the ropes. I’m going to have some guidance. Just have to keep my head straight and keep working.”
Taborn’s hard work was cited by both Sidney football coach Adam Doenges and basketball coach John Willoughby as having earned him a scholarship.
“He’s always worked hard and had that drive, but his leadership ability and maturity has really come on,” Doenges said. “That’s always a fun part to watch kids grow in, and it’s been fun to see that with him.
“I think Bill Parcels used to say, ‘If they don’t bite as puppies, they’re not going to bite as dogs.’ Darren bit as a puppy and continued to do that, but the leadership ability went through the roof a whole bunch, particularly from his junior to his senior year.”
When Taborn takes the field next fall, he’ll be one of five Sidney graduates currently playing collegiate football.
“It’s kind of becoming a little bit of a yearly tradition, which is nice,” Doenges said. “… We always spend a lot of time trying to find good spots for graduating seniors. Whether it’s going to the next level in football or going into the military or going to college or a two-year school or go into the workforce, you want to try to help them get set in the right spot as they move on.
“Today’s a great day to celebrate one of your guys going to play high-level football. Darren’s worked hard and deserves this.”
Taborn had 24 tackles and two interceptions last year. He missed the first two games of the season due to a knee injury sustained in a scrimmage but fought through nagging pain to finish the year.
He developed a reputation as one of the Dayton-area’s best cornerbacks through his career. He led the then-20 team Greater Western Ohio Conference with five interceptions as a junior, three of which came against Tippecanoe.
“We don’t try to start too many freshmen, but when you need some of those guys to fill some spots, you can always depend on a guy like Darren when he comes along,” Doenges said. “He really showed his competitive nature early and was able to do that for us for four years.
“He has a great competitive nature, as all the Taborns do. When you’re one of the youngest of the Taborns, your competitive nature better be pretty high to stick around in that family.”
Taborn said he doubts he’ll be the last of his siblings to play collegiately. Younger brother Devin, a sophomore, is also a football and basketball standout for Sidney.
“Little bro is going to be up next,” Taborn said. “He’s going to have his.”
Taborn said Sidney’s playoff run in 2017 and the basketball team’s ongoing success will be among his best memories. Taborn averages 11.9 points per game for the Yellow Jackets, which are 17-2 despite losing four starters to graduation from last season’s 20-win squad.
Taborn said he’s leaning toward majoring in sports management.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.