Zack Darlington is entering into his fourth season in the Nebraska program. He’s also entering into a third role in those four years for the Huskers. A depth-providing quarterback during his freshman season and primary holder for kicker Drew Brown last year, Darlington is trying his hand at wide receiver this season.
After practice ended Tuesday afternoon, he stopped to chat with me about that transition, life as a Husker and more.
Hail Varsity: You’ve been a quarterback, a holder, now a wide receiver,
what’s the experience been like moving around as much as you have?
Zack Darlington: “The biggest thing I think is just being able to stay locked
in to whatever the task at hand is, just focusing on that. Whether it’s playing
quarterback, playing receiver, holding, every time you step on the field,
whatever your assignment is at that moment is what you’ve got to focus on and I
think that’s been the biggest thing.
“I think the switch from quarterback to receiver is not as
difficult as some may think, as far as the mental aspect of it. That was one
thing that helped a lot was just being able to already know what I was supposed
to be doing. In general though, like I said, it’s just about making sure you
know your assignment and what you have on that play and don’t worry about the
ones after that until you know what’s in front of you.”
HV: You touched on that quarterback to wideout switch not being as difficult,
is that just knowing as a quarterback what you expected of a wide receiver and
having that little bit of insight already?
ZD: “Yeah. Mentally it’s not been difficult. It’s more physical. It’s
the running the routes, having the good breaks, making the tough grabs and
stuff like that. That’s the part that I honestly don’t think people think about
as much, the actual running the routes and the depth and being able to make
the break and the double move and stuff like that. It’s definitely a lot different
when you actually have to go out there and do it for you first time.”
HV: What’s the mood like in this new room for you? Is everybody
competing for those top three spots on the depth chart or are guys helping each other and
trying to just improve the room overall?
ZD: “Oh, everyone’s helping everyone. We’re pushing. That’s
probably, in my opinion, one of the closest position groups on the team.
HV: Why do you think that is?
just because of the way [wide receiver coach Keith] Dub [Williams] is. He talks
about how we’re a family, and we’ve all got each other’s back. No one is
undermining anyone or wanting a teammate to do bad, you want to see your guys
go out and ball out because those are the guys you work with and you train with
and you have that close relationship with someone. Getting to see guys rotate
through and go out and have success like that, that’s all you want.”
HV: Coach Williams is just one of those guys everyone loves, isn’t
he? Even the pros will come back and work with him. Is he just that great of a
ZD: “I think what Dub’s able to do is he’s able to take very
complex football situations and scenarios and put them into everyday life
“Some things that may not make sense to a guy when he’s
talking about running out of your break where you’ve got to run out as fast as
you can. A guy may be like: ‘Run out? It’s a route, I’m trying.’ He says
something like: ‘If you’re walking down the sidewalk and there’s a big old pit
bull at the end of the block and it starts running at you, you’re not going to
turn around and run out of your break like that, you’re going to haul and you’re
going to get out as fast as you can.’
“I think when you’re able to put that scenario in your head,
now you’re like ‘oh yeah, that actually makes sense.’ He’s able to do that with
just about everything. I don’t know how he does it. Honestly, he’s able to
break down football and the complexity of it and make it extremely simple.”
HV: Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot just in the short time
you’ve been with him?
ZD: “Oh without a doubt. He’s the best coach I’ve ever played
“I mean he’s enjoyable, he makes it to where you can understand it and it’s
not just about being football smart with him. He talks about taking it serious
in football but then you’ve got to take it just as serious in class, just as
serious off the field. I think he does a really good job of being able to preach
one thing on the field and then preach the same thing in the classroom and
preach the same thing off the field so you’re able to always have that mindset.”
HV: When it comes to off-the-field activities, you’ve been
involved in a number of different outreach programs over the years. What is it
about those kinds of events that draw you?
ZD: “First off, I come from a really big family, so being so far
from Florida, when I was in high school I would come home, I wouldn’t go and hang
out with a bunch of people. I’d come home and hang out with my little brothers
and sisters and hang out in the backyard and play football, baseball, whatever.
I enjoyed being around them. So I enjoy going to the elementary schools and
being able to go and play kickball or something with the kids.
“Also, I just kind of realized that you have a platform when
you’re here. And it only lasts for so long because the minute that ‘N’ comes
off your chest and you take your helmet off, you no longer [have that
platform]. It’s not that they’re in love with Zack Darlington, it’s that they’re
in love with a Husker football player, and that’s the role that you have and it
doesn’t last forever. So, you can use [that platform] for some things but you
can also go and use it to impact some lives and some young kids and help
inspire them like however you may have been inspired growing up.”