Darius Kelly watches YouTube videos of Tyrann Mathieu before football games and tries to impersonate him when he takes the field. He even has a highlighted streak of hair like the former LSU star.

Just call Kelly the Pima College Honey Badger.

The sophomore safety from Sierra Vista Buena has been a playmaker for the Aztecs the last two years, and he's tried to copy Mathieu's electric style of play.

"I have to watch him before every game," Kelly said. He's a natural playmaker. I know he made some mistakes, but that happens."

Pima coach Pat Nugent calls Kelly one of his top players, and said he made the play of the game in the season opener at Phoenix College this year when he returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown.

"He's always a highlight reel," Nugent said.

Kelly, who is also a team captain, hasn't found the end zone since, but he's come close. Two weeks ago, he took a kick return 59 yards.

The safety leads Pima (1-6) with 37 tackles. He also has forced a fumble, pulled in an interception and broken up a pass.

"He goes out there every day and works hard," Nugent said. "He wants to get better and has a goal to get to the next level.

"That's what made him successful here at Pima."

Nugent thinks Kelly's strong 5-foot 11-inch frame and speed will help him advance to a four-year school, along with his playmaking ability.

"He's got great speed and great strength," Nugent added. "He's a good-sized safety and may end up at corner someday, too."

It wouldn't be the first time Kelly has played cornerback.

He was born in Fayetteville, N.C., but his parents, who were in the military, relocated to Sierra Vista before his freshman year at Buena.

As a Colt, Kelly mostly played corner and was a returner. He broke his left arm in a game his senior year, which caused him to miss the bulk of the season. It also caused his phone to stop ringing.

"Schools stopped calling almost instantly," he said.

That said, Kelly is happy things have worked out for him at Pima.

Before Kelly took interest in the Honey Badger, he idolized former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart and was a QB when he was younger. But it didn't take long for Kelly to move to the opposite side of the ball, where he now thrives.

"I was always a natural aggressor, so defense was more natural for me," he said.

Other sports

• In soccer, the men's team will play three games in five days while the women have two over three days. Both teams host Paradise Valley, starting at 1 p.m. today, and then will travel to Phoenix College on Thursday. Only the men's team will visit Yavapai on Saturday for a 6 p.m. match.

• In cross country, the men's and women's teams travel to the Mt. SAC Invitational in Walnut, Calif., on Friday for their final race before the NJCAA Region I championships on Nov. 1.

• In volleyball, the Aztecs will try to rebound from their first home loss of the season when they host second-ranked Glendale CC on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Pima will also play at Central Arizona on Friday.

• In basketball, preseason action will get under way when the women's team travels to Central Arizona on Thursday for a scrimmage. The men will participate in the ACCAC Jamboree at Phoenix College on Saturday.

Pima sports this week


• Men's soccer: 1 p.m. vs. Paradise West

• Women's soccer: 3:30 p.m. vs. Paradise Valley


• Volleyball: 7 p.m. vs. Glendale CC


• Baseball: 12:30 p.m. vs. Mesa CC at Arizona Sports Complex in Peoria

• Men's soccer: 4:30 p.m. at Phoenix College

• Women's basketball: 5 p.m. at Central Arizona (scrimmage)

• Women's soccer: 7 p.m. at Phoenix College


• Baseball: TBA vs. Sophomore All-Stars at Peoria Sports Complex

• Cross country: Mt. SAC CC Invitational in Walnut, Calif.

• Softball: 1:30 p.m. vs. Central Arizona College; 3:30 p.m. vs. South Mountain College. Both games at UA's Hillenbrand Stadium

• Volleyball: 7 p.m. at Central Arizona College


• Softball: 11 a.m. vs. New Mexico, at UA's Hillenbrand Stadium

• Women's basketball: 6 p.m. vs. Davis-Monthan (scrimmage)

• Football: 7 p.m. vs. Scottsdale CC at Sahuarita High

• Men's basketball: TBA at Phoenix College


• Softball: 1 p.m. vs. Cypress (Calif.) College; 5 p.m. vs. University of Arizona. Both games at UA's Hillenbrand Stadium

Note: Home games at PCC West Campus unless noted