Scholar shares name, was coached by Jackets' leader

He's one of the CSRA's top honor students on track for graduation in about seven months, and his name - or an extremely close approximation of it - is in the news every week, in connection with the Yellow Jackets' football program.

Daniel Pippen, a North Augusta High School senior, serves the Jackets on the kickoff-return squad and as a slot receiver, being led by Daniel Pippin, the Jackets' head coach since 2006.

Pippen - the Jacket with an "e" in his last name - is applying to Georgia Tech, Michigan and Princeton, with chemical engineering as his planned focal point.

Clemson is also getting his consideration, and if top-notch academic performance helps in terms of admission, he may be in fine shape. Pippen's currently the top student in his class, with a 4.94 grade-point average on a weighted scale and a 3.97 on a 4.0 scale.

As for his sterling GPA, Pippen said, "I had one 'B' ... in art, actually a '92.' I'm one point away from a 4.0, so that kind of stinks. That was back in eighth grade."

Since Pippen's eight-grade year, the Jackets' football program has become one of the best in the state. Pippen, Pippin, and the rest of their squad are to be at home Friday for the first round of the playoffs, playing host to Nations Ford.

"It's been great playing four years for coach Pippin. I really enjoy football, and I really enjoy the athletics at North Augusta," Pippen said.

Pippen, who is not actually related to the coach, is also a runner, having taken part in the Jackets' track program as a freshman, sophomore and junior. His events of choice are the 800 meters and the 4X800-meter relay.

"Whenever people meet me, they always assume I'm coach Pippin's son, and that's probably the most frequently asked question I've ever received in life ...

"If they don't ask me that, then they think I'm coach Pippin's son and just go with that."

The coach also has fun with the similarity in names. "It's always funny at practice. Whenever I do something good at practice, he'll be like, 'It's all in the name. It goes with the name,'" said the teen, whose parents are Steve and Donna Pippen.

The two Daniels also have a college preference in common.

wwThe coach, a native and longtime resident of Michigan, pulls for the Wolverines, and the local honor student is also a Wolverine booster, dating back to his earliest school days, when his oldest brother, Joe, went to school in Ann Arbor.

Pippin - the coach - does have a son: McKinley, who played football for the Jackets. McKinley, however, graduated this year and is now a student at USC in Columbia.

"We both had kind of longer, brown hair, and we used to talk all the time. People thought we were brothers," Pippen said.

Pippen's roles on campus also include participation in more than a dozen organizations with the academic team, National Honor Society, Beta Club and Future Business Leaders of America among the mix.

Current projects, he said, include starting an on-campus group, the Interact Club, to be affiliated with the Rotary Club of North Augusta.

"I really like the fundamentals of the Rotary Club and what they're all about," he said, recalling a recent conversation with a club leader who expressed interest in outreach to the high school. A similar student organization is in place at Fox Creek High School.

Aside from school, Pippen also volunteers at various events associated with the municipal government, such as the Nike Peach Jam, Jack-o-Lantern Jubilee and gatherings at Living History Park. "Making it a better city," he said, is a welcome opportunity to serve and put his Christian faith into action.

"I like to give back to the City, because the City's done so much for me in school. They've done real well with me, and I've been able to get to my position through the teachers and the opportunities that the City has offered me, so I think it's right to help out with the City."

Pippen, a North Augusta native is a member of First Baptist Church of North Augusta and is also an active backer of TrueNorth Church ("I think they have a phenomenal speaker in Steve Davis").

Pippin, the coach, described Pippen as "a great kid who works very hard in everything he does."