JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – DeMario Douglas was proud and felt like he’d accomplished something. Reality came after that.
Douglas, a Mandarin High School graduate and now a prospect for the NFL draft after a stellar career at Liberty, recalled a time at the beginning of his high school career when that reality came thundering down.
Douglas and Kenny Logan, currently a safety at Kansas, went to a Rivals camp and went through all the drills and measurements. Douglas was particularly proud of his time in the 40-yard dash. Logan’s brother, former St. Augustine High and University of Florida star, Brandon James, delivered an honest assessment.
That’s not good enough. Work harder.
“We ran a 4.7,” Douglas said. “Brandon [said], ‘Come on now, y’all slow!’ That’s just constructive criticism. For me and Kenny, we took it on the chest, and we actually worked.”
Douglas, who is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds, said that moment stuck with him throughout his high school career, into college at Liberty and then during the NFL scouting combine last month. When Douglas posted a time of 4.44 in the 40 there, he went back to what James told him. And with a bit of pride, that time at the combine showcased that relentless drive to take coaching and a critique and parlay it into something even greater.
“It’s just the grind that nobody sees, though,” Douglas said.
If he wanted to be the best, then constant and relentless work was not an option. James knew from experience just how challenging that leap from high school to the next level was.
Douglas would have to work harder than ever and keep chipping away. His size — then 5-8, 150 pounds — wasn’t going to do Douglas any favors. That just meant the work never stopped.
Douglas became one of the top receivers in Liberty history. According to Pro Football Focus, Douglas has the highest career grade of any receiver in this year’s draft.
“I always had my head down and just kept working. I always wanted to outwork everybody. I always want to be on top,” Douglas said. “A lot of people talked about my height, size, like that. I just want to show people who [are] my height and size that, you know, it’s possible.”
Douglas’ speed and skills have never been in question. He learned the game with help and coaching from his uncles in St. Augustine, and then got his start in high school at Menendez.
Playing both ways there as a freshman and sophomore, Douglas had four interceptions and four touchdowns. He transferred to Mandarin for his final two seasons and was a dynamic athlete for the Mustangs. Douglas’ senior season ended with one of the most dominant state championship game performances in the game’s history.
He had four touchdown catches, had five tackles and intercepted a pass in a 37-35 upset win over previously unbeaten Miami Columbus. The state championship was just the fourth FHSAA crown won by a public school in Duval County. Raines has the other three. It was a performance so eye-opening that Florida senator Marco Rubio tweeted about Douglas’s action on the field and encouraged the Gators to sign him.
When Douglas signed with Liberty, it was hailed as a major pull for the Flames. Had Douglas been two or three inches taller, he’d have had offers from every major college program in the country. And when Douglas turned in three quality seasons at Liberty with 16 touchdown catches, there was little surprise among the NFL draftniks about Douglas.
Those who’d followed his career knew. His hard work had paid off. And it’s not anywhere close to done yet. Douglas said that the combine gave him a taste of what NFL life will be like. He’s a potential Day 2 or 3 selection, and one of several area players who should hear their names called.
“Probably one of the longest weeks of my life but at the same time was one of the best weeks of my life,” Douglas said of the combine. “Just going through the process, long days, long nights and then coming out having to perform. It just shows you a little glimpse of the NFL.”
Notable local products who have declared for NFL draft
Pos., Player, College, Local tie (*early entry)
QB Stetson Bennett, Georgia, Pierce County
CB Chamarri Conner, Virginia Tech, Trinity Christian
WR DeMario Douglas, Liberty, Mandarin/Menendez*
WR Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State, Bartram Trail
TE Will Mallory, Miami, Providence
RB DeWayne McBride, UAB, Fleming Island/Bradford*
OT Warren McClendon, Georgia, Brunswick*
K Jack Podlesny, Georgia, Glynn Academy
CB Ameer Speed, Michigan State, Sandalwood