North Carolina State senior wide receiver and returner extraordinaire Darrell Blackman has had an up-and-down career with the Wolfpack. He originally came to NC State as one of the top 10 running backs in the country, a position he still holds dearly. However, he is poised to make his last year a memorable one at his new position.
The Wolfpacker recently sat down with the outgoing senior from Williamsport, Pa., to talk about the season, new coach Tom O'Brien and even his new beard.
Is it weird being a senior already?
It has come so fast, and it's like, 'Wow, I'm a senior.' It is the end already. It started to hit me when we started our winter workouts and the new staff came in. This day is really here. I was starting my senior season now. I started remembering my first day here. There is so much I want to do and so much I want to accomplish with the football aspect and academically.
It is kind of mind-boggling and there is more pressure on you. The first day you walk in, Chuck Amato was talking to the seniors about how it is there last go-around. He told them to go out and work hard and make it the best year that you have ever had. "The freshman were in the back of the auditorium listening, he said to not be surprised because it will be right around the corner that you'll be up there sitting in the front seat.
What will it be like being part of new coach Tom O'Brien's first team?
I know there is a good chance this is a rebuilding year and that we'll have a better year than last year. I want this year to be the year that we change things around, and everyone will follow in our footsteps. We want to show how you are supposed to work and what is expected.
Do the players talk about how successful O'Brien was at Boston College?
It does come up in a sense with the team in that we have a good opportunity with another good coach coming in. It is shown and proven with his record and stats at B.C. He took a team that wasn't winning as much (when he got to B.C.), and took them to a number of bowls.
Does it feel good that O'Brien wanted to come to NC State and coach you guys?
He sees a whole bunch of talent here when the position was open. He wanted the opportunity to come here and change it. Everyone is so caught up and eager to play for him.
Were you recruited by Boston College coming out of the prep ranks?
I was recruited by them. My older brother, Dwayne, kind of asked me the other day if the coaches from B.C. ever ask you why didn't you commit to B.C. It's kind of funny. The same coaches that recruited me there, now, three years later, they are coaching me at NC State. It kind of all worked out, as God has a plan for everything. I was recruited very hard by B.C., and they were there in the end. But I wanted to go to NC State.
What is it like seeing your name ranked among the top punt and kick returners in the country?
It is very exciting that I am getting recognition and that people know about me. When I first got here, I had to take a backseat role to T.A. McLendon. In my position, I never had to take a backseat before. I was the star and the one the coaches depended on.
With the kick returning and punt returning, I had never done that in high school. The coaches knew I could do it. My very first time I went back there, I was nervous. My mother always says to not put all your eggs in one basket. You should always expand and try new things.
What goes through your mind when the ball is kicked high into the air?
People always ask me what I'm thinking about when the ball is coming down and people are coming at me. You can't concentrate on everything around you. The fans could be a distraction too. I just have to block all that out and concentrate on not turning the ball over and make a big mistake back there. You have to be one with yourself with the ball. You are able to protect yourself if need be with the fair catch.
How motivated are you to prove you are just as good a wide receiver as returner?
I'm very motivated. I feel like an underdog because I know I can play the position. I haven't really gotten the chance to play the position (full-time) yet. When people see my stats or highlights, it is usually as a punt returner or kick returner. I want to prove myself at this position.
I see you have some facial hair, which was one of the rules former coach Amato had. Do you get teased by that?
As long as we don't have it get out of control with it and it stays neat, it is one less that he (O'Brien) has to worry about, and we have to worry about. He isn't worried about what is on your face or how long your hair is. He wants to worry about making this program better and making this program successful. He wants to enjoy his time here and he wants the seniors to have as good a year as they possibly can have.