Photo by Gabriel Stovall / Jonesboro two-sport standout Dereon London will play both baseball and football this fall at Savannah State.
JONESBORO — Dereon London took one more quick glance across the Jonesboro baseball field.
“I’m going to miss this field,” he said. “It’s one of the best in the area.”
Not just for the Cardinals baseball team, but for London’s own memories.
It was his place to shine.
Fellow Cardinal teammates Cameron Sutton and Taurean Ferguson — both SEC football recruits — seemed to take many of the headlines and highlights over the last four years, leaving London to sometimes feel like he was the odd man out, despite his being a four-year baseball and football starter as well.
“I’d say my biggest challenge was me stepping out of other people’s shadows,” London said. “Cam and Taurean took a lot of the shine, and rightfully so, on the football field. I was still a go to player.”
His voice trailed off for a moment, then picked up steam again.
“But I just felt like baseball was my place to shine,” he said.
This isn’t anything new. Baseball is London’s sport. It’s the game he’s played consistently since age three. He’s never missed a season. And it is that consistency that Jonesboro baseball coach Dan Maehlman says he’ll miss most from his departing senior.
“London’s one of those kids that’s like a model student athlete that you’d want to show off to every kid as they come into high school,” Maehlman said. On and off the field. He’s the type of kid that is a true testament to how his parents raised him.”
And that’s not just coach speak to offset a lack of athletic talent. It’s just the honest truth, Maehlman said.
London was a standout receiver for the Cardinals football team in 2012 with his 36 catches for 522 yards and five touchdown. On the diamond, he went 3-1 as a pitcher while batting close to .400 and recording 19 stolen bases.
“He’s a natural leader,” Maehlman said. “He leads a lot by example. He’s not one of those type of kids that’s going to be vocal 100 percent of the time.”
But don’t be fooled. London has learned how to pick his spots to raise his voice.
Case in point, Jonesboro’s March 15 game against Riverdale. It was a 6-2 loss. Yet it was one of those losses that seemed necessary because of the success it triggered.
London’s voice was a part of that.
“After that game, I pulled everybody into a circle at centerfield and I just talked about what I felt,” London said. “Some people may have gotten their feelings hurt, but it was necessary for all of us. That game turned our season around.”
Jonesboro won 10 of its last 13 games, including a 13-1 route of that same Riverdale team to close out the regular season. It just missed making the state playoffs for the second straight season, but London counts the year as a success anyway because of how it prepared him to be a leader at the next level.
One that, according to Maehlman, won’t shy away from getting into a college junior or senior’s face if it means helping spur his team on to victory.
“Even when going down to Savannah State and going in as a freshman, if a junior or senior seems like he’s not getting done what needs to be done, he’s not afraid to challenge anyone,” Maehlman said. “He’s so competitive. He brings the best out in everybody around him.”
London will play football and baseball at Savannah State as well. After achieving a 3.67 grade point average at Jonesboro, he will major in business marketing with a minor in architecture.
And, even though he didn’t know it, he’s leaving a pretty big influence behind.
“It kind of surprised me that when I was graduating, a lot of people were writing me paragraphs of how much of an impact I made in their lives,” London said. “I guess people see me as a role model, and I really didn’t expect that.”
London’s last moment in the sun while donning Cardinal colors came on Thursday in the Clayton County All-Star Baseball game. It was a moment that he said he’d cherish as one to think about what his time at Jonesboro meant to him.
“I can say my four years here have been great,” London said. “From the teachers and staff to coach Maehlman and Coach Nate [Wardlaw]. I don’t think I could’ve made it without those guys. I won’t say it was emotional to know I’d be playing my last game in that uniform, but it was definitely an important moment.”