By Matthew Davis
Daireus Mock doesn’t have to hang up his football cleats until the day he plays college football.
Mock, 5-9 and 180 pounds, plays running back for the St. Paul Pioneers (7-3), a semipro team in the Northern Elite Football League. Semipro football, open post-high school and college players, competes in the summer months around the region.
“It keeps me ready for when I do go play in college,” said Mock, a recent Columbia Heights football star.
He didn’t have college as an option right away after graduating from Columbia Heights in 2015. He said that his choices during high school fostered that result.
“If had put my head forward and do what I had to do in high school, I would have been able to go somewhere right away,” Mock said. “Because I didn’t do that, I have to take a long route.”
He now works a job and plays football for the Pioneers while working toward entering a junior college. He said he hopes to one day play for the University of Minnesota.
Mock has been putting together game film with the Pioneers to make a case for playing in junior college and beyond. He has excelled in his first season with the Pioneers as the team’s second leading rusher.
Mock has 450 yards and four touchdowns on 69 rushing attempts. He averages 6.5 yards per game. He also has a TD reception.
Mock had his biggest performance of the season July 8 with 124 yards and a TD against the Battle Creek Sting. The Pioneers won that contest 45-6.
“He’s got great acceleration and speed,” Pioneers coach Mark Heiser said. “Really good balance, so he can take a hit and keep going.”
Mock displayed similar attributes at Columbia Heights with 1,000-yard seasons in 2013 and 2014. He rushed for 1,376 yards and 18 TDs in 2014 after a 1,333-yard and 14-TD campaign in 2013. He also posted 979 yards and six TDs as a sophomore in 2012.
After high school, Mock played for the Midwest Outlaws semipro team, but the team folded after the 2016 season. He excelled with the Outlaws as the Midwest Premier Football League’s 2016 offensive player of the year award winner.
“Stat-wise it was way better than this year, but I feel like this year my talents were able to show more because the level is higher,” Mock said.
The NEFL has vast amounts of former NCAA Division I and II players on the teams’ rosters. The Pioneers, for instance, have two former Minnesota players in Mickell Brown and Eric Ellestad.
“This level [semipro] is good because you have so many people who played D I and DII,” Mock said.
He said he’s learned a lot from Pioneers quarterback Cleveland McCoy in particular. McCoy, a former Division I star at South Carolina State, had a brief stint with the Detroit Lions before coming to the Twin Cities. Besides the Pioneers, McCoy coaches football with Fridley in fall
Mock also has found a program accustomed to success. The Pioneers have a 145-37-1 record since beginning competition in 2002. They have three national titles and seven league titles.
Mock and company expect to keep the tradition as the playoffs approach. The Pioneers close the regular season at noon Saturday against the Minnesota Brawlers at Sea Foam Stadium in St. Paul.
“Our goal is to win out from here on and bring back another championship,” Mock said.