McCORMICK -- McCormick running back Mataeo Durant's face beamed with joy and relief as he pulled out his Duke University T-shirt, verbally committing to play in a Blue Devils uniform for the next four years of his football career.
It was a long road for the rising senior to even get to this point, he said. Many people said he wouldn't even be able to make it out of McCormick High School, a 1A school, because it was too small. But Durant didn't want to transfer to a larger school.
It was important for him, he said, to get it done and earn a scholarship coming from McCormick.
Durant did just that, and reflected at the podium prior to the announcement speaking on many nights and weekends when his mother, Nakisha Durant, would drive him around to different football camps, trying to get him proper exposure to Division I programs, while his father, George Durant, worked long hours to provide for the family.
In the end, it all worked out.
"I feel great about (attending Duke)," Durant said. "This decision is going to change my life forever because it's Duke University and it's a prestigious university. (When) I get a degree from there, I feel like I'll be set for life."
Durant isn't just impressive on the gridiron, where he rushed for more than 1,100 yards while limited to just six games because of injury. He's equally impressive in the classroom, boasting a 4.75 grade-point average while being ranked fourth in his class.
Durant admits, though, choosing Duke over bigger football schools like Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest was a tough decision.
"I really had to think it through," Durant said. "I just felt like Duke was the best for me. I know I had a lot of bigger schools than Duke, but I felt like together with the education and athletics it was the best for me."
With Durant's decision Saturday, he wasn't the only one who felt like they won. Everyone, from former coaches to mentors, played a role in his development.
Durant's former recreation league coach from the Greenwood Cowboys, Bernard Yarbough, saw Durant's skills from an early age.
"He didn't mind doing whatever you told him to do," Yarbough said."(Mataeo) was a top dog out there."
Durant's youth team included Greenwood quarterback Dre Yarbough -- Yarbough's son -- and Greenwood wide receiver Sam Pinckney.
Yarbough can remember his players going to tournaments with just 17 players and beating teams with 35.
So, for him to see all Durant's hard work turn into a scholarship was special.
"It makes me feel proud" Yarbough said. "When they were 9, 10 years old, I told (my players) we were going to get six or seven boys off that team that will get Division I scholarships for football. It's coming into fruition."
Durant, meanwhile, is looking forward to having a great senior season, one where the recruiting process is finally closed and he can focus just on playing football.
"I learned that patience is really key," Durant said.
"If you're patient, your decision will come to you. I'm just looking forward to having a successful season. I know that I really don't have pressure on me anymore because I'm committed. Everything is going well for me right now."