OKLAHOMA CITY — Demariyon Houston remembers sitting in a car with his mom in downtown Oklahoma City. She was crying. He was eating. Houston, just a child at the time, thought she was crying because she was hungry. Only he was eating.
As he grew older, he realized it was the weight of the moment.
Houston, a four-star wide receiver from Millwood High School in Oklahoma, would see his mom cry many more times, and it became a driving force in his athletic career.
“My mom had me young and we grew up around a lot of gangs and bad influences,” Houston explained. “My grandma was on drugs. It was a hard time, but I was a kid so I didn’t know too much about it until I got older. Football became a way out for me and my family.”
Most elite prospects started playing sports young. Not Houston. The future Texas commit was busy running with the wrong crowd and causing trouble. Sports was the last thing on his mind, as his family moved around schools as his transgressions piled up the way he now piles up receiving yards. He didn’t play football until the seventh grade. It wasn’t until a move to Millwood in the eighth grade that Houston began to flourish on the field. It allowed him to turn the corner in life.
“I played right tackle in seventh grade,” Houston said with a laugh. “Once I moved to Millwood, I played tight end and then eventually wide receiver. It was a clean slate for me when I moved to Millwood and it was the first school that I thought truly cared about me and my life.”
Houston admits he continued to make mistakes as a freshman. He started surrounding himself with a new, better crowd, despite staying in touch with his old friends. Houston hopes to become a role model for inner-city youth in Oklahoma City by using his athleticism to reach college, graduate and hopefully make millions in the NFL.
“It’s hard because I still talk to some of my friends from my childhood and they’re doing the same stuff. It’s sad,” he said. “I want to be encouragement for their kids and my kids. It’s never too late to start over. This is bigger than me. I want to help my community and football is a way for me to do that.”
The staff at Millwood writes off many of Houston’s transgressions as immaturity. As a freshman, he jumped in a hole full of mud for a dollar. He pouted as a freshman when he was asked to return kicks. He still ran with some questionable characters and wasn’t placing the importance on football and academics that hte staff hoped he would, and there was a time early in his high school career that Houston was almost kicked off the team.
“My first encounter with him, he was running around with the wrong crowd and he would’ve been done at a lot of programs, but ours is more about developing young men because you never know what is going on at home,” said Shannon Hayes, the athletic director at Millwood. “He started to blossom after a year or so, and he had a ton of athleticism.”
Houston never imagined he’d be committed to Texas. He’s Oklahoma born and raised, but the Sooners never offered despite Houston ranking as the No. 2 player in Oklahoma and the No. 27-ranked wide receiver in the entire class, per the 247Sports composite. Texas did offer, so he took an unofficial to Austin in March. The 6-foot, 165-pound playmaker wouldn’t commit until July 7, but he left that visit in March with an idea that the Longhorns were the team to beat.
— h o l l y w o o d h o u s t o n (@demariyon5) July 8, 2018
“I loved the unofficial (visit) to Texas because the first thing we did was go visit the academics and talk about all of the tools we’re given at Texas to be successful in the classroom. Most colleges start with the flashy football stuff,” he said. “It impressed me. All the big schools have great facilities and all that. Texas showed me how I could become successful even if football doesn’t work out.”
Houston is one of three receivers committed to the Longhorns, joining fellow four-star prospects Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington. Houston plans to line up all over the field, playing slot and on the outside. He also wants to return kicks and punts.
The kid who once pouted about returning punts as a freshman now relishes the role. He took his first punt return as a freshman back for a touchdown and realized special teams weren’t a punishment. They were an opportunity.
“It all changed for me when I got that first offer from Ole Miss as a sophomore,” Houston said. “I started to focus on the bigger picture. I never did that growing up. Football can take me places, and Texas was the best fit.”
Houston does plan on taking his official visits. He’ll visit Texas, and plans to visit Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and maybe Oregon. He’s yet to set up the dates. Millwood is the favorite to repeat as Class 2A Champions in Oklahoma and those official dates can’t conflict with his high school football schedule.
“There’s less pressure now that I’m committed, but I still listen to coaches and don’t burn bridges because you never know what can happen,” he said. “I don’t care about the conference or anything like that. I’m going to the school that makes me feel the most at home and gives me the best chance at a future with and without football.”