The 1980s prime-time soap opera "Dynasty" centered on the well-to-do Carrington family.
Two decades later, another Carrington family is creating its own dynasty — in athletics.
The modern-day story began when Darren Carrington Sr. walked onto the football team at Northern Arizona University. There, he would meet his future wife Vickie, who ran track for the Lumberjacks and also competed in bodybuilding. Darren Sr. would parlay his college football experience into an eight-year NFL career, including two Super Bowl appearances.
It's not surprising then that the two would create athletic offspring. One is playing Division I women's basketball on a full scholarship, another has committed to a Division I football powerhouse and the third, a freshman girls basketball player, is already being courted by D-I programs.
"We knew that they were special because of their hand-eye coordination at a very young age," said Vickie Carrington. "Their motor skills were really high."
But before Darren and Vickie started their family nearly 23 years ago, a near-tragic event sent a jolt through the soon-to-be parents. Vickie suffered a fall when she was 5 1/2 months pregnant with the first of three children. She went into premature labor and delivered DiArra — 3 1/2 months early — on New Year's Eve 1989. She weighed a mere 1 pound, 10 ounces. Despite being a fragile micro preemie (a baby born weighing less than 1 pound, 12 ounces) and facing the possibility of lifetime health issues, DiArra was in good condition.
"She was completely healthy, which was a blessing from God," said Darren Carrington Sr., a marriage and family pastor at The Rock Church in Point Loma.
But when DiArra was just a year old she was having trouble breathing. Her windpipe had not fully developed. Doctors considered reconstructing it, but instead surgically inserted a tracheostomy tube to help her breathe.
DiArra went on to play multiple sports at Horizon Christian Academy (San Diego)
, a private pre-K to 12 school in the San Diego neighborhood of Clairemont. Starting in seventh grade she played for her mom, who is Horizon's girls basketball coach. DiArra was All-League her junior year and became the second-leading scorer in school history with 1,078 career points. She is now a junior guard at the University of New Orleans.
She and her sister DiJonai were introduced as youngsters to softball, basketball and gymnastics. Their brother Darren played basketball, football and baseball. As they progressed, sometimes their parents coached them. Other times they would just taxi them to and fro. Living in San Diego, Darren would take up golf and learn to surf, wakeboard and snowboard. They would all play high school volleyball and basketball. DiJonai is currently the outside hitter for the Panthers' volleyball team.
"Definitely, at times, a motorhome would've made it easier," said Darren Sr.
As a first-grader, Darren Jr. would play football on the school's playground with boys five years older. His dad, who spent four years with the San Diego Chargers, started coaching him in flag football. Now a senior at Horizon,
was All-League his sophomore and junior years. This summer saw the rising star attend multiple high-profile, invitation-only football camps across the country.
He has fielded more than a dozen D-I offers since March but when his dream school, Oregon, offered him a scholarship in June, he immediately accepted.
Horizon freshman DiJonai wanted to join her brother on the football field as a little kid. She played flag football when she was 7. After that, a coach convinced her dad to allow her to play Mighty Mites — tackle football — at age 8. Despite her mother's hesitation, DiJonai showed she could hang with the boys.
"My wife wasn't too super excited about it," said Darren Sr. "(DiJonai) loved it once she got by her first hit." Survival skills
Darren Sr. said DiJonai, who was the punt returner, got nailed on the first play of her first game.
"She got clocked," he said. "And was laid out. But she survived it and had a great year."
She was named MVP that season.
Now a 5-foot-11, 14-year-old, she is ranked as one of the top freshman basketball players in the country. She has received interest letters from a number of schools, and even an unofficial offer from Washington. Texas A&M-Commerce has actually offered DiJonai a full scholarship, but she has her sights set on Stanford.
On the court, DiJonai has been compared to WNBA star and San Diego native Candice Wiggins, who nicknamed her "Little Maya Moore."
DiJonai wants to put her sports knowledge to use off the court as well, hoping to be a sports analyst or broadcaster when she grows up. To that end, she has been the play-by-play announcer for the Horizon girls varsity basketball games for the past five years. DiJonai doesn't know who will be the team's voice since she'll now be on the floor.
"I don't know," she said. "They'll have to find an announcer."
Vickie Carrington has been the girls basketball coach at Horizon for 10 years, with her first California Interscholastic Federation-San Diego Section title coming in 2011. Darren Sr., who is Horizon's defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator, is also one of his wife's assistant basketball coaches.
"It's awesome," said Vickie. "We consider ourselves as co-coaches, because I value his input. He's a great coach. He's very defensive-minded." Unity and Independence
While they have been highly involved in their children's athletic
pursuits, Darren Sr. said he and his wife have not been helicopter
parents. At times, DiJonai would disagree. While Darren Jr. is coached
by his dad, DiJonai, who was the underclass MVP at San Diego's Next
Level All-American Camp in August, gets a double dose.
hard," she chuckled. "Because they're my parents, I never get away. If I
go on a basketball trip, they're there because they're my coaches."
Dad admitted his teen daughter could use some "me" time. DiJonai and Darren Jr. are close, but she envies her older brother's independence.
"He doesn't have both parents coaching him. Also, he has freedom," she said. "He can drive."
The siblings have never played on the same team and it's probably a good thing because they'd likely fight over the ball.
"It's a hard family to compete in," said Horizon football coach Chris Johnson. "That's a very talented, athletic family."
The "Dynasty" family was rich, but no doubt these Carringtons are richer for the family ties that bind them together in achieving their goals on and off the court.
"It's really been a blessing that they've been able to accomplish the things they've been able to accomplish," said Darren Sr.
P.K. Daniel is a senior sportswriter for U-T San Diego. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @pkdaniel.