SAN MATEO Serra senior Daylin McLemore is a three-star recruit as a dual-threat quarterback, but the 17-year-old was a relatively unknown entering this season.
He could’ve transferred as a junior to play elsewhere in order to increase visibility for college scouts. Instead, he opted to stay, even if it meant remaining under the radar as a backup QB.
“I was just waiting for my time to come,” said McLemore, who sat out his sophomore year with a broken leg and used it as an opportunity to learn the playbook.
“There’s all kind of different ways to the top,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said. “And the kids down south think they have to transfer and put up 6,000 yards, hundreds of touchdowns. And while that’s great, there are paths that can be blazed in other ways. And showing the resolve to stick around and believe in our program and his teammates is going to show great dividends down the road. He’s a guy that you can trust.”
Daylin, who measures in at 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 200 pounds, is the son of Dana McLemore, a 10th round pick as a cornerback/punt returner by the San Francisco 49ers out of Hawaii in the 1982 NFL Draft. His father is a six-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl XIX champion, a 38-16 triumph over the Miami Dolphins at Stanford Stadium.
“It was a different story for my dad, but he’s always been there to support me,” Daylin said. “Not seeing success right away, it’s a little bit different than what he had. It’s just kind of special that he’s always there.”
While his father got to play at Candlestick Park, last month Daylin tossed a pair of touchdowns at Levi’s Stadium during a 38-13 victory over Menlo-Atherton.
In the season opener on Serra’s home field in San Mateo, a 58-21 rout of highly-touted Pittsburg, an economical afternoon for McLemore equated to 6-of-8 passing for 217 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was pretty special knowing that all the hard work that we put in the past 10 months, all of that paid off pretty much,” said McLemore, who began throwing to his receivers the week after the 2018 season ended.
“He’s a quiet leader who does everything right,” said Walsh, who added McLemore is nicknamed after 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. “And even if you wanted to hate him, you probably couldn’t.”
Luke Bottari is the only quarterback at Serra to win a state championship. He accomplished the feat in 2017 as a junior, which is the reason McLemore only attempted 15 passes as his backup.
“Last year I looked down the sidelines during the Pittsburg game and I’m like, ‘Why is this incredible athlete standing next to me. He should be on the field,’ ” said Walsh, who deployed McLemore as a cornerback, following in family tradition.
McLemore didn’t demand a transfer and didn’t complain. He understood his time would come.
“I came in prepared every game like I was the starter,” McLemore said. “Every week I had a plan if I did go in, what I would do. So now I have that same process in terms of getting ready for games.”
His predecessor couldn’t be more happy for McLemore.
“Playing football at Serra, and even playing quarterback at Serra, that’s a great goal that I once dreamed of and now he’s achieved it,” said Bottari, currently the QB at College of San Mateo, the top-ranked J.C. team in the state. “So, I think, that him not transferring and waiting his time is a true testament of who he is.”
McLemore spent the summer training with Adam Trafalis, a graduate of Mills who went on to play at San Jose State — the only college to offer Daylin a scholarship at this point.
Did his choice not to transfer affect his recruitment?
“I think it did hurt a little bit,” McLemore said. “But now all the colleges are kind of realizing who I am and the recruiting process is picking up, for sure.”
The CSM quarterback spent plenty of time in meetings a year ago with McLemore.
“He was always trying to soak every type of information that he could get,” Bottari said.
The dedication is paying off now.
“Trust is never an issue with Daylin,” Walsh said. “He’s got the highest of character, he’s got the highest of work ethic. He’s a guy that you not only want on your team, he’s a guy that you want to follow.”
Who knows what would have unfolded had McLemore moved on from Serra? But he stayed and will step onto the field Friday night as the quarterback of a high-powered, undefeated team.
“You never know when your time could come,” McLemore said. “You always have to stay ready, keep working.”