In 2012, when Ty Darlington stood in front of his high school graduating class in Apopka, FL giving his valedictory address, he was terrified.
Only two and a half years later, Darlington was asked to speak at the College of Arts and Sciences graduation in front of thousands at the University of Oklahoma’s Lloyd Noble Center.
This time he was all smiles.
Playing in front of 85,000 people every Saturday will do that for you.
“What’s great about football is that it gives you a platform to serve as an inspiration,” Darlington says. “Even when people shouldn’t at times, they idolize us and look up to us and we can use that to communicate the message that we want to.”
The message that Darlington, the starting center for the Sooners, wants to communicate is one that he’s been able to spread through multiple different organizations in his short amount of time on campus in Norman.
“I’m a Christian and I want to serve Jesus with everything that I am. God’s favor has been all over my life,” Darlington says. “That’s why I’m going to continue to give His name glory in a situation like this when I am able to talk about Him in front of the world.”
In addition to being a key member of the monstrous Sooner offensive line that will take the field in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Clemson, Darlington is the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at OU, a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and he finished with a 3.96 GPA in Planned Programs.
And he’s done it all before finishing up his third year of eligibility for the football team. Darlington plans to attend graduate school at OU while playing his senior season in 2015.
Time management is an important skill that Darlington has learned as he’s become involved in so many different organizations, but he credits another skill with being just as important.
“I manage to pull off some miracles right when things are due, so that’s a ‘skill’ I’ve been able to develop that’s helped me,” Darlington jokes. “I’m turning procrastinating into an art form.”
Darlington knows exactly what he wants to do once he gets his graduate school degree.
“I don’t want to sit in an office, I want to be a college football coach or go into athletic administration.” Darlington says. “I have to be involved with sports, I love it too much.”
His driving force is his faith and he uses that to help guide him in everything he does. He has participated in the Sooner’s yearly summer mission trip to Haiti the last two years and is helping plan the upcoming trip this summer. He says it’s his favorite week of the year.
“When we go down there those kids think it’s cool that you play football in America, but they don’t know who you are or care that much,” Darlington says. “Your identity as a football player is gone for a week and you get to be just a human being and bring smiles to other’s faces and minister to other people when you can.”
His roommate and best friend is the Sooners starting quarterback Trevor Knight. Knight is helping Darlington plan the Haiti trip and the two speak at events together regularly. The quarterback is full of praise for the type of man his center is.
“He wants more than anything to be an All American on the field, he’s already an All American academically, but his heart truly is for serving people and doing everything for Christ,” Knight says. “He could boast because he is so successful and he’s been blessed with the athleticism and intelligence that he has, but he uses that for good as a platform to truly extend the Kingdom.”
Quarterbacks and centers already spent a lot of time around each other, but when the two are roommates it multiplies that time even more. So does it annoy or inspire Knight to see someone he’s around so much cruise through school so quickly with such a high GPA?
“A little of both, Ty’s the hardest worker I know and it’s so admirable to see somebody go 100% in everything they do,” Knight says. “But also it’s kind of annoying when you’re sitting there reading textbooks for hours and hours and he glances over a study sheet for 15 minutes and makes a higher grade than you.”
Knight benefits more than anyone from Darlington’s intelligence on the field as Darlington directs the offensive line in their protections of Knight.
“It’s nice when you have a leader in the center of the line that can help the other guys out, ID things, see things, and react to them quickly,” Knight says.
Both guys were praiseworthy of Darlington’s predecessor Gabe Ikard, a two-year starter at center, a 4.0 student and an NFF National Scholar-Athlete. Whoever follows up Darlington and Ikard has some big shoes to fill, on the field and in the classroom.
The evidence in Darlington’s life points to the fact that he can do anything he sets his mind to do. But Knight thinks he knows one thing that Darlington won’t be able to accomplish.
“He’s a goofy guy that thinks he’s going to lose a bunch of weight when football is over and get down to being a slim, buff guy,” Knight jokes. “He has aspirations that might be above and beyond what he can achieve.”
However, Darlington is the type of guy to achieve his lofty goals, and usually quicker than expected, so Knight paused and reconsidered his stance.
“Yeah, he’s going to work as hard as he can at it and he’ll probably achieve it,” Knight says.
Don’t forget, Darlington has become skilled at pulling off miracles.