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Ty Darlington Q&A
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Sooner center talks about football, school and more
Personal statistics are not something upon which Ty Darlington thrives. As a collegiate center, he’s not going to score any touchdowns or throw any passes, and the Oklahoma coaching staff hopes he never has to make a tackle.
While Darlington’s duties require him to handle the ball as much as any player on the field, most of the work he does is executed outside the glare of the main spotlight. Snapping, blocking or calling the blocking schemes, the senior from Apopka, Fla., provides a hard-to-measure impact on the OU offense.
Let’s just say Darlington plays a key role in the Sooners’ success.
Sooner Spectator caught up with Darlington recently and asked him about his job and his time at Oklahoma so far.
Sooner Spectator: You had some pretty big shoes to fill when All-American Gabe Ikard departed after the 2013 season, but you stepped right in and seemed to feel very comfortable in that starting role. Why was that such a smooth transition for you?
Ty Darlington: First of all, I feel like Gabe and I are pretty similar in our skillset, personalities and football IQs. He’s a better athlete than I am, but I try to make up for it in other ways. Gabe was my mentor and an excellent role model my first two years at OU and I learned a lot about how to play at this level from him, especially how to prepare yourself and how to operate on the field. He taught me how to slow myself down and play with a level of calm that is not always easy to do. It also helped that I had played a fairly good amount my freshman season. That got my feet wet and Gabe and Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh helped with the rest.
SS: Your media guide bio indicates that your mother (Shelly) was once a cheerleader at OU. How big an influence was that on you deciding to play at Oklahoma?
Darlington: Well, she was actually on the OU pom squad, but I may have told them cheerleader. She grew up in Del City (Okla.), so my history with Oklahoma goes way back. When I graduated from OU last December, I want to say that I was the 16th member of my family to earn their degree from OU. Even though I was born in Florida, I’m about as Sooner born and Sooner bred as they come. I have a ton of family in this area — grandparents in Norman and Oklahoma City. So it’s in my blood.
SS: What are the keys in your mind to being a good college center?
Darlington: I believe that leadership is a big part of it, and your ability to stay composed in every situation. So composure. You have to operate under pressure and have the ability to make decisions on the fly when things happen in the game that are maybe unexpected. Beyond that, I feel the position requires a good level of intelligence, especially here at OU where a lot is put on the center position as far as decision-making and that type of thing. You have to know the playbook inside and out. You obviously have to be able to move and be athletic, play hard and play tough.
SS: Do you like the fact that you have the ball in your hands every offensive play and have a significant influence on your team’s overall success?
Darlington: Absolutely. My dad is a high school football coach and he used to tell me that I should have been a quarterback. I sort of have a quarterback’s demeanor. I have a younger brother who is a quarterback (at Nebraska) and it was like we somehow got mixed up along the way. But since I can’t be a quarterback at this point, I figure I’ll go with my best option which is playing center. It’s a position where you are in the middle of the action have a little influence on the game.
SS: Looking back at the spring and at how this program dealt with the SAE fraternity racial incident on campus, do you get a sense that the controversy actually helped bring you and your teammates closer together?
Darlington: I definitely think it did. I don’t know if it is something that you can actually measure or quantify — that closeness — but I believe there is a deeper trust there than maybe before. This group of players has always been pretty close, always gotten along well — but I believe there may be another level to it now. It was a situation that made each of us look around the room and see things in a little different light. That was just one of a number of positive things that have come from that deal, but it’s also something that you continue to build on and learn from, and that you pass along to the next group of young players coming into the program.
SS: You take being a “student-athlete” very seriously — that both aspects of that term are equally significant. Is that fair to say?
Darlington: No doubt about it. That’s the way I’ve always been. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, I want to do it to the best of my ability. My favorite verse in the Bible is Colossians 3:23, which says, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.’ So that’s pretty much the approach I take with everything I do. I am always going to give my best on the football field because that is what I was recruited here at OU to do. But my life and who I am go way beyond football. And really, coming to Oklahoma and this institution means more to me than just being a football player. I love being part of the history and tradition here — it’s something I take great pride in. But 20 years from now, the athlete part of student-athlete is not what is going to be paying dividends for me. That will be the academics and earning my degree. So everything I do here at OU, I am always going to work to do my very best.
(Editor's Note: This is part of an interview that appears in the 2015 Football Preview Issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe - call 405-850-9063)