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Darling wants more opportunities for Bahamians

  • Bahamian professional football player Devard Darling is helped off the field after suffering a torn ACL in a pre-season game while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Darling remains optimistic that more and more Bahamians will succeed in the sport of American football. FILE PHOTO

Guardian Sports Reporter

Published: Apr 27, 2012

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With the first round of the 2012 National Football League (NFL) Draft completed, Bahamian professional football player Devard Darling feels that the time is now to get “back to the basics” so more Bahamians can be selected.

The first round of the NFL Draft was held last night. The second and third rounds will be held today and rounds four to seven are set for Saturday. The last time a Bahamian player was drafted was in 2005. Darling was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and Alex Smith got picked up in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“As a player you have to set goals for yourself,” said Darling. “You have to dream to move forward and achieve that goal. You have to put in the hard work. It takes extreme focus to make it to the top level. Only one percent get to make it out of everyone who plays football through the U.S. and all over the world, so to make it there it takes extreme focus, hard work and dedication. You must have a winner’s mentality.

“As far as The Bahamas growing and having a high level of football is concerned, we must take it in stride but push it further so we can move forward. It has to be a combined effort. It has to be something that all Bahamians want to see happen. I definitely want to see it happen. The things that football has provided for me has been incredible. The things that I saw and the life that I am able to live was all achieved through the game of football.”

It’s been a rough journey in the league for Darling who sat out the entire season last year, after being released by the Houston Texans. Darling played with the Ravens for four years before signing on with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was released in 2010 and later signed on, that same year, with the Omaha Nighthawks in the United Football League (UFL). Last year, Darling returned to the NFL and tried his hand with the Texans.

As for Smith, the tight end with Bahamian roots, he was traded to the New England Patriots for a fifth round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Shortly afterwards, he was released, and then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. That relationship lasted just one year, as Smith signed with the Cleveland Browns in May 2010. He is still with the Browns organization.

Smith is the son of Ed Smith, the first Bahamian drafted into the league. Ed Smith was selected in the 13th round, the 319th overall pick by the Denver Broncos, in 1973.

Darling added: “We have to get a program, a foundation down. It needs to be written. A plan to promote the game of football in the country needs to be in place. We need to get it integrated into the schools. A youth program needs to be built. There has to be a focus on the youth especially. I know there were some persons at home who tried to do it but we need more support to get it going. I am ready to help and bring it forth.

“It is going to take a lot of assistance from everyone, starting from the ministry level and trickling down. It is achievable. Anything can be accomplished if you put your mind to it. If there is a focus on ways to get it done, then it can be done. Bahamians just need to see the benefits of the game and what it can provide for our youth and country as a whole. I don’t think that most people know and believe that football is just a sport.”

According to Darling, the sport of football helps to build character and is a good way for persons to work together. He believes that many life lessons are learned on the field. Darling noted that he is not disappointed because there are no Bahamians are in the draft, but he will be if the trend continues. He encouraged persons to join clubs and programs like the one established in Houston, Texas by his Olympian cousin Frank Rutherford.

According to Darling, the Houston based program, hosted by Rutherford, has assisted many Bahamians in attending schools and colleges in the United States. It has given them the edge needed and an advantage over student-athletes who remain in the high school system here in The Bahamas.

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