This wasn’t the plan.
It wasn’t even Plan B…Or Plan C…Or D… Or E.
It wasn’t a possible outcome… At least not in my mind.
But God had other plans. And in typical God-fashion, His Plan ended up being far better for me than any path I could have plotted for myself.
So where do I start this convoluted tale?
Well, let’s pick up where I left off. After my short-lived foray into the land of the NFL, many of you know that I returned to OU, where I have worked in the Student-Athlete Development department for the past year, while simultaneously dipping my toe into TV/radio analysis with Sooner Sports TV and The Franchise. What many of you do not know is that this arrangement was never intended to be long-term.
At its conception, the design of this plan was to get experience in Athletic Administration on an interim basis before moving onto another university to start a graduate assistantship on the football side. For years, I had dreamed of pursuing such an opportunity at a particular university to the west.
As a high school junior, my college decision came down to OU and Stanford. Though Stanford appeared to be an ideal fit for my personality and interests, my heart was truly in Norman, Oklahoma, for I had dreamt of donning the Crimson and Cream my entire life. So off to Norman I went, and I consider that decision to be possibly the most pivotal of my life. Nearly five years later, I saw an opportunity to still obtain the Stanford Experience as a Graduate Assistant, and I pursued that opportunity relentlessly. Unfortunately, I found out in mid-March that the position I had been counting on would not be available. I was crushed… For all of 12 hours.
Undeterred, I looked at this unforeseen development as a simple redirection. Rather than start as GA, I would apply to the Stanford MBA program, which is one of the best in the world. The idea had been planted in my head months prior, and had grown into a dream of its own. To garner business expertise and cultivate myself as a person was an alluring notion to a part of me that was becoming increasingly restless and hungry to grow. So I devoted everything in me to the application process, pouring countless hours into the perfection of my resume, essays, and recommendations. My Stanford GSB application was to be my crowning achievement, immaculate in presentation and impeccable in detail. With superb confidence, I submitted my crown jewel and waited for my acceptance email.
The following weeks were positively nauseating. I went about my daily routine on the most jagged of edges, waiting for an email that could change my life. Every time my phone vibrated, my heart jumped and my breathing quickened.
“Could that be it?”
In the midst of the yearly mission trip to Haiti, I finally received notice of my fate…
Dear Tyler Darlington,
Thank you for applying to the Stanford MBA Program. We have completed the review of applications, and I am sorry that we cannot offer you admission.
Heartbroken. Crushed. Downtrodden. Desolate. Depressed. Despondent. Dejected.
Dictionary.com doesn’t have enough words to accurately define how I felt in that moment. Thankfully, at the time, I was so immersed in Haiti that I didn’t have the time to dwell on my rejection.
I’ll remember the moment for the rest of my life. I walked into the house from Memorial Day at the lake, and for the first time in a long time, I was truly alone. All of my roommates and friends had moved out and moved on, and my family was a thousand miles away in Florida. My lease was up on Sunday and I did not know where I was going to live. The job I wanted had fallen through. My MBA application had been denied. My various back-up plans had failed one by one.
I sat on my couch by myself with tears running down my face, crumbling under the weight of the fear and uncertainty of adulthood, wallowing in self-pity and disbelief.
No job. No house. No future.
I am aware that this situation is not an isolated phenomenon. It’s an experience a great many people endure at the outset of adulthood.
But not me. I’m not that guy. I can’t be… right? I’m supposed to be the guy with a list of awards and accolades a mile long. The guy with the plan. The guy that has it all together. The Captain. The Senator.
Yet there I was, with no better prospects for the future than anyone else.
God humbled me and broke me down.
But He had a plan. A plan to give me a hope and a future. A plan that was far greater than anything I could have architected on my own.
I just didn’t know it yet.
BREAKING: BOB STOOPS RETIRES, LINCOLN RILEY TAKES OVER AS HEAD COACH OF THE SOONERS
Did you see that coming???
Neither did I.
Or anyone else.
The moment shocked Sooner Nation and the entire college football world.
Like the rest of Oklahoma, my head was swimming in the endless sea of possible reasons and eventual ramifications. Though I was sad and surprised to see Coach Stoops step away, I was simultaneously overjoyed to see Coach Riley be named the new HBC. It is no secret that I am a HUGE believer in Coach Riley as a coach and as a person. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be a successful head coach at some place in the near future, but I never once thought that place would be here.
My initial enthusiasm transformed to curiosity when I focused inward: What does this mean for me?
Over the next 6 weeks or so, I had several conversations with Coach Riley that eventually concluded with me being offered a Quality Control position on the offensive side of the ball. Of course, the immediate answer was a resounding “YESSSSS!!”
I could not be more excited about this opportunity for several reasons.
It’s a tremendous growth opportunity
Personal and professional growth is of utmost importance to me. I want to be constantly uncomfortable, and that is what this position promises me: Discomfort. Though I am an offensive lineman and have a thorough knowledge of OL schemes and techniques, I will be working primarily with the skill groups. This gives me a chance to be exposed to a side of the game that I have never been previously immersed in. I will have a chance to learn from one of the preeminent offensive minds in the country, and I plan on taking full advantage of that privilege.
I love Oklahoma football
Sooner born and Sooner bred. I’ve loved Sooner football my entire life, and I am thrilled to be a part of what will prove to be a pivotal transition time. I truly believe that we are heading into a special time. The class and wisdom that Coach Stoops displayed by handing things off to Coach Riley the way he did has set us up for a special run, and I want to be a part of it. I believe that I can be of value, and that this entire program is about to ascend to an even greater level. That’s not a recruiting pitch. That’s not me politicking. That’s what I believe regardless of my affiliation with the team. This is a special place to be, and it’s only getting better.
I want to coach
For quite some time, I’ve felt some type of vague obligation to do something “more important” than coaching. From the time I was young, I’ve had countless teachers and others adults encourage me to be a doctor, lawyer, businessman, politician, etc. Yet, football is where my heart is. I can’t think of many occupations that are truly “more important” than coaching. More financially lucrative? Yes. More prestigious? Absolutely. But what could be that much more important than shaping young men? That’s what this is about for me: Impacting the lives of young people. A coach has a tremendous platform and responsibility to mold the youth of our society, and I fully intend to fulfill that responsibility to the absolute fullest.
In a way only he could, God placed an opportunity in my lap that is far more rewarding and challenging than anything I could’ve contrived myself. I am so extremely blessed and grateful to be joining what is already an incredible group of men on the Oklahoma Sooners Football Staff.
You haven’t gotten rid of me quite yet.