Going above and beyond for student athletes
April 22, 2017
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“They become family and it’s what brings me to campus over 350 days a year. Everyone loved Sandra Bullock in the Blindside, but of our 20 scholarships a year, we have 10-12 Blindside type stories every year…I’m just not a millionaire,” said head football coach Mike Darr.
Diablo Valley College football players receive more scholarships than the entirety of East Bay high schools combined every year. However, this would not be possible if it was not for Darr.
“We have facilitated 193 scholarships in the football program over the nine years I have been the head coach. Only two other schools in Northern California have had half that many during the same time period,” said Darr. “DVC has the most football scholarships offered this year in Northern California, and most likely the state.”
Defensive lineman Franklin Uesi is transferring to the University of Texas at San Antonio in May after playing only one year of high school football at College Park. Uesi was inspired by his cousin, Tui Talia, who also played at DVC, to further his football career. After hearing his cousin’s success, he decided to come out to play for Darr.
“Coach Darr? Give this man the award as the best coach, father figure, and mentor. Coach Darr helped me achieve good grades by setting up a study program for athletes who need help on their homework. Every day I would be in his office, asking him for help on certain problems I didn’t understand, or assignments I had trouble doing,” said Uesi.
Safety Kyle Trego is transferring to Colorado University in Boulder in May, which is also a Division I school. Only spending one year at DVC he had an outstanding freshman season after coming straight from Liberty High School in Brentwood. Even though, Trego has spent such a short time playing for DVC he pays immense respect to Darr.
“I’ve had a lot of coaches over the course of my football career and Coach Darr is most definitely one that is dedicated and determined,” said Trego. “Coach Darr has put in a tremendous amount of time and work not only being my football coach but also being my counselor and mentor, to get me in the position I am today and I couldn’t thank him anymore.”
Darr makes a point to make himself accessible to all players at all times. Each player has his phone number and he puts in hours on campus nearly everyday. Darr spends a lot of time away from his family, especially during the season.
“Coach Darr literally never takes days off. He’s always in his office, Monday through Sunday, just to help players with their homework or give players advice about life,” said Uesi.
Playing a college sport, trying to manage school and home life all at the same time can become a handful. Having a coach that is there for you at all times is above and beyond. Darr plays an important role in many of these athletes’ lives.
“Coach Darr wants us athletes to make sure we get the degree we want because football will not last long, but an education will. He was also there to help cope the struggles I had at home, making sure I’m well fed before I head to class. I am truly thankful for his existence because these are the type of people us athletes’ need, someone who’s willing to help us achieve our dreams,” said Uesi.
These scholarship athletes are dedicated, as summer practices are every Monday through Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., which includes lifting weights, film, and field practice. Coach Darr makes sure he is there for these players every practice.
“He would always remind me ‘Listen Franklin, all that ladder drills, running routes, and one on one drills is easy… all the field work is easy, anyone can run around the football field, but school? The classroom? That’s the real hard work that separates those who want it from those who kinda want it.’ I thank him for that talk because it allowed me to look at the bigger picture,” said Uesi.
Most athletes that come to play football for DVC are looking not only for a scholarship offer, but to be challenged as well.
“What made me come to DVC over any other junior colleges is because of the consistent rate of Division I scholarships handed out each year to athletes in the football program. Also, because they compete in the toughest junior college conference in California,” said Trego.
Former DVC cornerback Cameron Whyte has transferred to UC Berkley in fall of 2015. Although he has chosen to not further his career in football he spoke kind words about his time with Darr at DVC.
“Coach Darr took time out of his busy schedule to ensure that all of his players were on the right track not only on the field, but in the classroom. He went far beyond the call of duty of a head coach,” said Whyte.
Transferring to UTSA is an amazing opportunity for Uesi as it is a Division I school and only five players on the team are from California.
“Everything they (Talia and Darr) taught me, I passed on to young players, who are also joining the football team. Hopefully, it’s creating a domino effect of success for players who are willing to take the stand to become something great in life,” said Uesi. “Looking back, as a young kid, I never thought I would make it this far. It is amazing to be the first in the family to achieve something so big.”
DVC sends players to every conference and every level of college football. DVC also has more mid year transfers and more “1 and done’s”, which are players that receive scholarships after just one season, like Trego.
“At an average of $20K per year for two years, we have enabled our students to receive 7.72 million dollars worth of scholarship money,” said Darr. “An average of over 20 a year, we have had the most signings in seven of those nine years and are perennially in the top three in transfers throughout the state.”
Although, only Trego and Uesi are featured in this article, many players have been offered scholarships as well.
“Every opportunity to allow these young men to better their lives is special to me! These guys have to put in so much mental, physical and emotional effort to make the necessary sacrifices for the success they have achieved, I’m honored, blessed and amazed every year,” said Darr.
If you are willing to put in all the effort and time, coach Darr is more than willing to work with you. Darr’s highest totals of scholarships have been 26 players his first season as head coach in 2007 and 25 in 2011.
“Through our academic monitoring and support, contacts, networking and marketing of our players’ abilities, there are currently seven players in the program that already have scholarship offers in place following next season,” said Darr.
DVC could potentially become a better City College of San Francisco, back when Coach George M. Rush was the head coach of their football program for 38 years. For all the efforts Darr has put forth in this program, he could be next in line to have Viking Stadium renamed after him like the great coach Rush.