Poets' quiet power

Derek Session Jr.'s character has been shaped by family, and the linebacker's selflessness has helped mold Dunbar into a contender


November 01, 2006|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN REPORTER

Derek Session Jr. barely knew the man after whom he is named.

"I lost my father when I was a year and a couple of months old. He was shot at a Harford Road carry-out that was being robbed," Session, 17, said. "The man asked for his money and he told the man, `No.' So the man shot him."

Session has often heard the story from his grandmother, Tina Session, who "wanted me to know my father didn't just walk out of my life," said Session, a Dunbar senior. "She says he was a man of principle, and if he was around, he'd be proud of the man I've become."

Session does have a man he considers a role model. That's Keith Pringle, who married Session's mother, Carolyn, 10 years ago and who endured the death of his own father at an early age.

"I met [Pringle] for the first time in third grade, and we bonded right away," Session said. "If someone asked me, `What's your father's name?' I'd say, `Derek Session Sr.' But at the same time, I'd say, `My father's Keith Pringle,' and not `My stepfather is Keith Pringle.' "

Session spoke scarcely above a whisper as he told his story. As he sat in the bleachers of Dunbar's gymnasium, his voice was nearly drowned out by those of nearby teammates who ran timed sprints against the screaming buzzer of a scoreboard clock.

All the while, Session remained calm and focused. He has handled his life in similar fashion, just as he has quietly performed as the Poets' second-leading tackler over his past three seasons as an inside or outside linebacker.

"Derek's always been consistent in that way, never bringing attention to himself," offensive coordinator Travis Blackston said. "But he's starting to come out of his shell."

The unassuming demeanor is rivaled only by the unselfishness that Session has demonstrated since he first put on a helmet and shoulder pads as a Northwood recreation league player at the age of 10.

"Derek's always been the best lineman or middle linebacker," said Blackston, who coached him on one of the two national title-winning Northwood squads that Session played on. "Although I do remember this one time when we were up by four points in a regional championship game.

"The situation was fourth-and-two or something, and we needed to win to get to the nationals in Florida," Blackston recalled. "Derek was an offensive guard, and he just told us to run behind him. We did that, got the first down, and we went to Florida."

Session has sparked the Poets' three-game winning streak. In its victories, Dunbar (5-3, 5-2 Baltimore City Division I) has outscored its opponents 219-24 with two shutouts.

"A couple of years ago, Derek was at outside linebacker," said coach Ben Eaton, whose Poets are seeking their fourth state title and their first since 2004. "But we're not as deep inside this year, so we moved him there. I'm comfortable with him playing almost anywhere."

A team captain with senior defensive back Kendall Jamison and senior running back Maurice Portee, Session aspires to follow the example set by two-time All-Metro lineman Alan Bosworth, a 2006 graduate who helped Dunbar to consecutive titles in Baltimore City's Division I and the Class 1A South region.

"Alan went hard on every down," Session said of Bosworth, who never played organized football before high school. "If he got knocked down, he got up, dusted himself off and went back harder the next time."

Session's impact has been subtle offensively, where he has rushed for four touchdowns and little more than 300 yards. Defensively, however, Session has an interception and a fumble recovery and leads Dunbar with 12 tackles per game and seven sacks on the year.

"During camps at [North Carolina] and [Virginia], recruiters got to see Derek's speed and movement," Eaton said. "He's improved his angular pursuit and ability to cover backs out of the backfield."

Session's body type seems more suited for a college defensive back, though he desires to play linebacker. A student with a B average, Session is a chiseled 6 feet 2, 217 pounds, bench-presses 300 pounds and clocked a 4.57-second 40-yard dash during a combine at the University of Virginia in June.

"To be a linebacker, I would have to hit the weight room real hard and put on some pounds," said Session, who has received a scholarship offer from North Carolina and drawn interest from James Madison and Virginia. "Shedding the blocks of 300-pound linemen? That's something that requires more size, which I'd need to work on."

As for defensive back, "I'd convert to that," Session said of a position for which Virginia is considering him. "I feel like I'm the right size and that I have the right speed to play safety. For the rest of the season, I'll be working on my agility, vision and focus in coverage."

Off the field, Session has unflappable personality, poise and maturity that confound even Keith Pringle.

"Derek has a younger sister, Reality Pringle, who is 10, who is at a tender age. Yet he's always spending time with her and treats her like an angel - whether he's helping her with homework or just listening to her stories," Keith Pringle said. "Sometimes, I'm just amazed at the things Derek says and does. I'm glad he's my son, and I love him dearly."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.