Lawton MacArthur's Darius Graham wanted the 2011 Class 5A state title.
He'd dreamed about what it would mean to him and his community to win the school's first state championship for football.
Graham, No. 9 on The Oklahoman's Super 30 list, racked up 1,492 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns during last season to help the Highlanders reach the finals against Guthrie, but Lawton MacArthur came up short.
“I felt that that was Mac's year,” Graham said. “The first team at MacArthur football to win state — I was ready for the feeling. I think they just outplayed us. We didn't come to play.”
Since then, Graham has committed to working hard during the offseason in the hopes of reaching the state championship game in his final season at Lawton MacArthur.
Graham said he doesn't like to lose but took solace in knowing he and the Highlanders were good enough to compete for the gold ball — and could again.
“I learned to always finish what I start,” he said. “Whenever adversity comes our way, we just fight through it.”
That's one of the many reasons Lawton MacArthur coach Brett Manning believes Graham is an outstanding athlete and a leader in the locker room.
“He always has a smile on his face,” Manning said. “He's got a great attitude. He's never been in trouble a single time in school.”
Manning coached Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley during Whaley's brief stint at Lawton MacArthur.
He said Graham and Whaley both worked hard as Highlanders and their work ethic directly correlates to their success. He's impressed with each back's ability to break open games and said both are proven game-changers in the backfield.
“They're a lot alike in that both of them can be huge impact players and really take over games,” Manning said.
Manning said Whaley was faster but gave the edge in power to Graham.
“Darius is stronger than Dominique was,” Manning said. “Dominique was more of the speedster when he was in high school.”
Manning hopes Graham will have the opportunity to trade his athleticism for a college education — just like Whaley.
“Obviously getting a degree is the most important thing,” Manning said. “He's gonna have a chance to get his degree paid for, and I expect him to take advantage of that.”
The Oklahoman's Super 30
The Oklahoman's Super 30 feature series on the state's top football recruits continues with No. 9, Lawton MacArthur running back Darius Graham. Here are the last three players we've written about in the series:
No. 12: Dominique Alexander, Tulsa Washington
No. 11: Jordan Smallwood, Jenks
No. 10: Kimmie Carson, Tulsa East Central
Up next: Meet No. 8 on the Super 30 list, a dangerous linebacker with 113 tackles on a state semifinal team a season ago. He's a predator, at least according to his Twitter handle. Find out who he is in Sunday's Oklahoman.
No. 9: Darius Graham
School: Lawton MacArthur
Weight: 210 pounds
Position: Running back
Offers: Louisiana Tech, Southern Methodist with interest from Georgia, Houston, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Tulsa.