Coach Darlington


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.

Rock Bottom

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. 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.


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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Sooner Nation,

You haven’t gotten rid of me quite yet.


Coach Darlington

Soundtrack of my Life

Apopka High School is churning out Darlingtons at an accelerated pace. One every two years to be exact. The same teachers are used to seeing similar faces paired with different variations of their father’s iconic sarcasm. We’ve had the same classes, the same teachers, and even some of the same assignments.

One such as assignment is what has my restless mind buzzing today. An assignment from AP Psychology that my sister Gracie recently completed and shared with me. It is called “Soundtrack of my Life.” The basic premise is the tell the story of your life through songs. In the good old days, we made a CD. In this innovative technological netherworld, the yungins now just create Spotify playlists.

It’s been six years since I last compiled my soundtrack, and a heck of a lot of life has happened in that time, so it’s time for an update! The following is a list of songs that have made me laugh and made me cry, that have molded me and shaped me, that have given purpose and direction to my life.

This reflective exercise can be both enjoyable and therapeutic! I urge you to sit down and write down the songs on your soundtrack. Feel free to tweet them at me! I’d love to listen to the story of your life.

The right way to do this is to listen to each song as you read/write. So grab a pair of headphones, click on the link below, sit back, and enjoy the story!

Soundtrack of my Life

I Like It, I Love It- Tim McGraw


I like it, I love it, I want some more of it

I don’t have roots in country music, but man did I love this song as a little kid. My mom has videos of me with my boots and cowboy hat singing every single word! It is one of my earliest memories, and a no brainer as the leading song on my soundtrack.

Fly Away- Lenny Kravitz

I want to get away, I want to flyyyyyyyy awayyyyyyyy…Yeahhhhh… Yeahhh…. Yeahh

I am a coach’s kid, and I grew up transitioning from one role to the next within my dad’s program. WaterboyàBallboyàManageràPlayer. I went to sleep at night watching my dad’s team’s highlight films, and I will forever associate those songs with my football-obsessed childhood. For whatever reason, this particular highlight film song seemed to be more emblematic than the others.

*For Connor Knight- This is off the 2000 Apopka Highlight Film. Offensive section.

The World’s Greatest- R Kelly

valdosta middle

I’m that star up in the sky, I’m that mountain peak up high… Yeah I made it…. I’m the world’s greatest

I look back at how I was as a kid, and I truly believe I was a little bit crazy. I tagged along to workouts by 2nd grade. In 4th grade, I started waking up at 4:30 AM in the winter to participate in the high school winter workouts. By 5th grade, I fully participated in the entire spring football and summer conditioning programs with my dad’s players. In 7th grade, I was painting dot drills and hexagons for footwork drills in my garage. I would even do pass sets on trees in my front yard. I was starving to be great. It possessed my thoughts. During those late night and early morning sessions of solitude, this song drove me. At the time, I truly believed I could be the best football player to ever play the game. Now, that same mindset is applied to whatever it is I am undertaking at the moment.

Lose Yourself- Eminem

If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted… one moment… Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?

The lyrics rattled around my head in the period of life where I hunted down my dreams. I had always dreamed of playing college football, but through my sophomore year I was very undersized and my chances weren’t looking great. Then a spring growth spurt put me in realm of consideration for scholarships. When spring football came around, I fully understood the value of the opportunity, for each day college coaches would be watching practice. I approached each of those practices with the focus and intensity of a game, and after the final bell sounded, I walked from the classroom to the locker room with my headphones in and Eminem’s anthem ringing in my ears. The first week after school got out, I listened to this song in the grass parking lot of the intramural fields at the University of Oklahoma. Following that practice, Coach Bob Stoops offered me the scholarship I had been pursuing my entire life.

Mr. Brightside- The Killers

A few of the esteemed members of the Wolfpack

I’m going out of my cage and I’ve been doing JUST FINE, Gotta gotta be down, because I want it all!

You simply cannot “sing” this song. You have to scream it! The Killers were a favorite of my closest friends in high school. We jokingly referred to ourselves as “The Wolfpack”, and Mr. Brightside was our howl.

Just a Kiss- Lady Antebellum

But baby I’m alright with just a kiss goodnight

Oh yes, this is exactly what you think it is- A high school love song. I look back now and laugh/cringe that we had “our song”, but I also smile because it’s a good memory and an invaluable experience. It was my first love, and I learned so much about love and myself in that relationship.

Superman- Five for Fighting

It may sound absurd, but don’t be naïve. Even heroes have the right to bleed.

Expectation…. The weight of expectation can be absolutely unbearable at times. Early on in my college years, I struggled with the expectations placed on me by myself and others. My traits and previous accolades immediately drew the attention of teammates, classmates, and coaches. I had built up a certain reputation and persona that led to the expectation for me to fulfill my vast potential as a player, person, and student. Others expected great things from me. I expected greater things from myself. As I wrestled with those expectations in my mind, the words of this song were my retort to the world. I am not Superman. I have the right to bleed. I have the right to mess up. I am only a man.

Preach- Young Dolph


Out here in these streets there aint no such thing as love- PREACH

The 2015 team loved every minute we got to spend with each other. That year, Coach Stoops decided to start practicing at 6:45 in the morning on Fridays. It would have been very understandable for us to come out to these practices a little groggy and lackadaisical, but Young Dolph had other plans. I have no idea how it came about, but this song became the anthem of Friday morning practices. We cranked it up as loud as it would go, and then everybody would dance until the stretch whistle blew. I’ll forever remember how much fun we had that year.

Unwritten- Natasha Bedingfield

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….REACHING for something in the DISTANCE, so close you can almost TASTE IT, release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your SKIN!

Wait what? What’s this one doing on here? All credit goes to Mr. Joseph “Fingaz” Palange, who guided this tune to infamy with his choreographed hand motions. If you ever attended a social gathering at 1315 Ann Arbor Dr., chances are you screamed this too.

Dixieland Delight- Alabama

Spend my dollar- ON BEER- Parked in a holler in the mountain blue light- ROLL TIDE

The Alabama Football version. I’m sorry for saying Roll Tide, but it’s just too much fun. We’ve belted this one out in multiple states.

The Boys of Fall- Kenny Chesney

I’ve got your number, I’ve got your back, when your back’s against the wall

The only song that can bring to summation all the feelings I had at the end of my playing career. Out of sheer nostalgia, I listened to it on the flight back to OKC from Nashville after being cut. Kenny put words to the feelings left unsaid by every man who’s ever picked up a pigskin.

Pieces- Rob Thomas

Not quite ready to explain this one yet, but I assure you it’s spot is well-deserved.

Clear the Stage- Jimmy Needham

Anything I put before my God… Is an idol. Anything I want with all my heart… Is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of…. Is an idol

A few months ago, as I was on a flight to California, I heard this song for the first time, and it pierced my heart and convicted me immediately. I love the Lord, but I realized that I had idols in my life. Too often, we think of idols in the ancient Biblical sense, as statues made of gold and silver that are physically bowed to. But in this day and age, idols take much less blatantly sacrilegious forms. I have made an idol out of football in my life. I have made idols out of certain people in my life. I have spent more time, energy, and attention on worldly desires than on my spiritual needs. This song convicted me of this fact, and led to a major spiritual revival that is still alive in my heart.

I’m Still Here- John Rzeznik

How can the world want me to change? They’re the ones that stay the same. They don’t know me, cause I’m not here!

Yes, this from the Treasure Planet soundtrack*

From a very young age, I have believed that I am different. Honestly, that belief is one of the pillars of my existence. Some might perceive this as arrogance, and that’s ok. When I say I’m “different from everybody else”, others translate that as “better than everyone else.” I don’t believe that to be true. But for quite some time, I have wrestled with this feeling of guilt because of my gifts. At times, I have felt a compulsion to hide some of my considerable talents so as to not intimidate others or cause other to feel insecure. A variety of things have pushed me to completely disavow this notion with disgust and step into who I am with confidence and without shame. The first is my belief that God created me this way, and that I am obligated to maximize my talents to bring him glory. Of smaller influence have been secular works, such as this song, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and a quote from Marianne Williamson. In part, it reads “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others do not feel insecure around you.” Yes, I do believe that I am different. No, I do not apologize for that belief…. And you shouldn’t either.

Here Am I- MercyMe


Whom shall I send? Who will go for me? To the ends of the Earth, who will rise up for the King? HERE AM I! SEND ME!

This song is based upon a passage of scripture in Isaiah 6 in which Isaiah has this conversation with the Lord. I want this song to be the attitude of my heart at all times. “Send me, Lord!” I want to be ready and available to be used by God. Send me where you want me, Lord. But I do not just think about this in a geographic sense. Yes, I want to go into all the world spreading the Gospel. Haiti, Belize, and wherever else God sends me. But I also want to be willing to “go” into broken situations, to “go” to hurting people, and to “go” to insurmountable tasks.

Bless Me Indeed- MercyMe

Bless me indeed

Bless me indeed, open wide my horizons, to sing your praise. Bless me indeed, may your hand keep me from harm and pain.

Bless Me Indeed draws directly from Jabez’s prayer in 2 Chronicles. Jabez asked the Lord to bless him, protect him, draw him close to God, and expand his territory. God granted his request. In the summer of 2013, my spiritual mentor Adam Barnett began praying this prayer over the lives of myself and Trevor Knight. God has answered it in every way, and we continue to pray this prayer today. I am confident that God will continue to honor our prayer, because He does not change.

Who Am I- Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the Earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?

This is my life’s song. This is the paradox. A lot of the songs on this list are indicative of my confidence in myself and my drive to succeed. These lyrics humble my heart and bring my pride to its knees. Who am I? Even with the awards, successes, gifts, and ambitions. They amount to nothing in the eyes of an Almighty God. I am but a man. A sinful, prideful, imperfect man. A flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow. A wave tossed in the ocean. A vapor in the wind. Nothing I have done or ever will do impress God. My righteousness is filthy rags in his eyes. I try to stack up my works and accolades, yet still fall so woefully short. BUT STILL. You hear me when I’m calling. You catch me when I’m falling. You tell me who I am. It blows my mind and pierces my heart to realize that I am not even close to good enough, but He loves me anyways. He blesses me anyways. He wants to have a relationship with me? ME?? This song will forever remind me of my own worthlessness next to God’s righteousness, and also of God’s irrational grace and reckless mercy.


Thank you so much for making it this far! Tweet me your soundtrack and I’ll give it a listen!