Photo by Christine Troyke
Like any car enthusiast, Norcross football player Demetrius Alston likes to make his ride look good, as the shiny rims on his 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis illustrate.
However, he also knows it's what's under the hood that matters most.
"I like muscle cars," Alston said. "But I'm more old school. I'd like to get a Cutlass one day."
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior defensive end likes to take the same approach on the field.
And he figures to have plenty of fuel in the tank to help fine-tune the engine of the Blue Devils' defense in 2010.
"I'm always trying to get better," Alston said. "My role is just bringing the heat. At crunch time, I've got to step up because a lot of people are depending on me to lead."
Based on his performance as a starter for Norcross the last two seasons, he should be more than up to that task.
He has 113 combined tackles and assists and five sacks over his Blue Devils career, including 82 stops -- fifth best on the team -- and two sacks a year ago.
And while he works hard to hone his skills and make himself resemble the muscle cars he admires, he is also studying techniques from some of his heroes from higher levels of football -- including the Cadillac of NFL defensive ends, five-time pro bowler Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts.
"I'm learning things by watching NFL (defensive ends), like Dwight Freeney," Alston said. "The thing I learn most from him is just getting off the ball quick and keeping my feet moving."
His speed and quickness, ability to find the ball carrier and deliver vicious hits are plenty to impress Norcross coach Keith Maloof, but it is Alston's versatility that draws the most praise.
After seeing time at three different defensive positions last year, he is quite the interchangeable part. And that's not even including his role as a tight end on offense.
What impresses Maloof most about Alston is his willingness to adapt to any new role the coaching staff puts in front of him.
"He's been a mainstay for us, but the thing that comes to mind is that he's a team player," Maloof said. "Last year when the defense was trying to figure some things out, we moved him from defensive end to defensive tackle. And then when Adrian Hubbard (now a freshman at Alabama) started to step up, we had some injuries and holes to fill at outside linebacker, so we moved him there. Not once did the kid complain or worry about how it was going to affect his numbers.
"He's a very good athlete and very versatile athlete. ... Last year, he really grew up a lot, even when we were struggling. And this summer, he's really stepped up and become a leader."
All those qualities have made Alston a hot commodity among college programs looking for a tough, truck-like defender.
He already has scholarship offers from the likes of Mississippi State, West Virginia, Auburn, Central Florida, Middle Tennessee State and Eastern Michigan, among others.
He intends to take his time in making a decision, and for now, he is more focused on leading the Devils back to the postseason after missing the Class AAAAA state playoffs for the first time since 2004 a year ago.
"I feel like everybody wants it more than we did last year," Alston said. "People are a lot more focused. It's more a team thing (this year)."