University of Northern Colorado Tight End Darin McDonald
NFL Draft Series by PFC Blogger Shaun Brown (@shaunabrown23)
SB: Darin, thanks for taking the time to speak with us about your background & also for letting us hear about what the future holds for you in the upcoming months.
SB: Let’s start off with a brief overview of your college years in regards to football and how it has molded you into the individual that you are today, both on and off the field.
DM: Well, I want to say that the most important thing that I’ve learned is to have a lot of persistence. As you know, I was red shirted as a freshman at Wyoming. The main reason for me attending the Univ. of Wyoming was Joe Glen. In my first year at the university, the coach left. I then transferred to the University of Northern Colorado where I played in nine games, six of which I started as a WR. I missed the last two games of the season due to a hernia injury which required surgery. The following year was missed due to a discrepancy in regards to the credits for my classes. In my third year at fall camp, I suffered a season ending shoulder injury which also required surgery. My senior year my coaches really didn’t have any expectations and really didn’t think I would do well. New guys had come in and pretty much all the positions were filled and most of the coaches didn’t know me too well as a player and what I was capable of. This is where persistence paid off. Word of mouth wasn’t enough to earn a starting job on the team; you needed to show it on the field. After seeing the hard work and dedication that I put in, soon enough the coaches gave me the chance to start and the game plan soon revolved around me. Unfortunately, I missed the last game due to concussion that I suffered in practice.
SB: Has missing your 1st and 2nd season at Northern Colorado hurt you as a player? And if so, tell me how you are going to be able to overcome this situation and prepare yourself for a career in pro football?
DM: I guess you could say that it helped and hurt me at the same time. The time missed helped me gather my thoughts and make me tougher mentally. I originally had planned to pursue a career in baseball but I had to put a stop to that due to some other circumstances. It was tough for me to give that up. Football was something that I wouldn’t let anything stand in my way of doing. I want to play until someone tells me I need to stop or my body tells me to stop. Mental speed bumps can be overcome; you just need to keep your goals in sight and move forward. Physically, I’d have to say that it may have hindered my technical skills.
SB: In 2009, after injuring yourself, has the transition from WR to TE been a tough one? What have you learned about the new position & what characteristics are you developing to be effective at this new spot on the field? How do you stay focused and keep on the path?
DM: I’ve gone both WR and TE for most of my career thus far and I feel like it makes me a more versatile player. As a TE, I mostly got the ball out of the backfield or from a flex position. Scott Downing from Northern Colorado moved me to the TE position because he felt I was more effective in that position. Route running is something that I really look to make a crisper part of my game. My TE routes were tight, but my WR type routes needed some improvement. As a TE, you tend to block someone that’s always bigger than you are, like a linebacker or a lineman, so staying true to your technique would help me in that regard. I feel like I was more effective against a linebacker or a safety because of my quickness. I used my body very well whenever I had to be matched up with a corner.
In regards to staying on the path, keeping my body healthy is vital. The older you get, the easier injuries come. I feel that stretching and technique while working out are very important to staying in shape and just being another way of being smart about my body. Not going full speed at the beginning of practice and easing into the drills was a great way for me to get my body ready for a full practice session. Recognizing an injury early on getting it taken care of and also being smart about it are great ways to take care of yourself.
SB: What current NFL TE are you looking to mirror your game after? With the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, & Jason Witten out there, how can you be as effective as they have in the last few years?
DM: Definitely Aaron Hernandez. Split out, quick slant, run block, out of the backfield, or even an end around, he can do it all. I like the excitement he brings to the game because you never really know what he’s going to do next. He’s unpredictable. Technically a TE, but the man does everything. Also maybe like Kellen Winslow.
SB: Darin, I appreciate the time you’ve given me. I look forward to staying in contact with you over the next few months and see how your progress is coming along.
Darin’s game plan for the immediate future is to continue working out with his teammates. The schools strength and conditioning trainer is helping him and the other players out to continue staying in shape. He works out six days on and one day off.
For all those interested, be sure to check back for more interviews with Darin as well as more NFL hopefuls on ProFootballCentral.