By Rob Kiser
It was another big signing day at Piqua High School for the Indians football program Wednesday, on the annual national signing day.
Darien Tipps-Clemons, Nate Monnin and Tristen Cox all made their college decisions official, as they will continue their gridiron careers at the Division I level.
“It is always a big day when kids are making their college decisions,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “I think these are great fits for all three guys.
Tipps-Clemons, a 6-foot-2, 218-pound linebacker/running back, realized a dream of his Wednesday when he signed with Michigan State.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play in the Big Ten,” the son of Brandon Tipps and Tameka Clemons, said. “I have always liked Michigan State. I really like Coach D (Mark Dantonio) and his staff. I am looking forward to it (the challenge of playing at the highest level).”
Tipps-Clemons was named GWOC Offensive Player of the Year is junior year when he exploded on to the scene.
Coming off a sophomore season where he rushed for 703 yards and 10 touchdowns on 99 carries, he racked up 1,664 yards on 24 touchdowns on 237 carries and caught 12 passes for 102 yards.
At the same time, he was a standout at linebacker, recording 50 tackles and a sack.
While, his senior season ended in week 2 with an ACL injury, Tipps-Clemons finished his career with 2,518 yards rushing, 139 yards receiving and 37 touchdowns.
On defense he had 71 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
“It is what is is (the ACL injury),” Tipps-Clemons said. “I was worried about that at first (Michigan State honoring the scholarship), but they stuck me. It has been tough, but I have had good people around me. I graduated early because I wanted to be up there (at East Lansing on campus) and be around everything. I am not totally cleared, but I will be able to start running and things like that pretty soon.”
Nees said the sky is the limit for Clemons.
“Darien (Tipps-Clemons) is a real athletic kid,” Nees said. “I think is the day and age when teams only use one running back a lot, that is a position you can pick up quickly.”
While Tipps-Clemons is excited about his future, he is not limiting it to defense.
“Really, the coaching staff and everybody up there is why I chose Michigan State,” Tipps-Clemons said. “Everybody is going to be given a chance. Coach D said there was a possibility of me at tailback as well. We will see what happens. But, I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Monnin, the son of Andy and Paula Monnin, knew he would be playing at the college level.
It just came down to which sport for the 6-foot-5, 249-pound tight end/linebacker, a first team All-Ohio selection this fall.
“I knew I wanted to play in college,” Monnin said. “It was a just a matter of whether it would be football or basketball.”
Monnin said the choice of Kent State was an easy one.
“When I went there and visited, I just loved everything about the campus and the program,” Monnin said. “And they play a great schedule. We open with Clemson (the defending national champions) next year and they played Alabama this year. So, you get to play against some great programs.”
Monnin broke onto the scene as a sophomore, taking his first reception to the end zone after breaking several tackles, a sign of things to come.
While playing his junior and senior seasons with shoulder injuries, he still finished with 37 receptions for 508 yards and five touchdowns.
At the same time, he was just as impressive as a defensive end. His senior season, he was the only GWOC player named first team on both offense and defense on the All-Division teams.
He finished his career with 95 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two force fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
“Kent State is expecting some big things from Nate (Monnin),” Nees said. “The thing you have to remember about all three of these guys is this is the first time they are going to be playing on one side of the ball (instead of both ways) and that is going to make a difference.”
Monnin is looking forward to the next challenge.
“I am having surgery on my shoulder after basketball,” he said. “I had surgery on the other shoulder last year. I should be ready to go by August. I am not sure if I will redshirt this year, but I am confident (about making an impact) and looking forward to it.”
Tristen, the son of Freddie Cox and Jenni Spangler, made an impact far beyond his stats.
There was probably no one the opponents feared being hit by more than the 6-4, 308-pound defensive tackle — not was there anyone who enjoys making a big hit more.
And no one drew more attention from opposing blockers.
While disrupting most teams running games, Cox finished his career with 87 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
And Cox is excited to make the decision to play at the next level.
“It was always a dream,” Cox said. “It is a little bit of a stress relief now they I have made the decision. I just loved everything about it when I visited there (the campus in Charlotte, N.C.).”
There will be at least one familiar face there. Former Piqua and Ball State standout Bryant Haines is the linebackers coach there.
“I think it is good, just having someone from Piqua there who knows about you,” Cox said.
And Nees feels like Elon, a Division I-AA school, is a perfect fit for Cox.
“They are switching to and off-front defense, so he will play nose tackle,” Nees said. “He played some of that here for us. He is a really athletic kid who can do a lot of things. He had several other offers. He visited Elon and fell in love with the place. They play some really good competition.”
And Cox was the perfect cap on another big signing day for Piqua football.