Defensive tackle Chartric Darby believes the Buccaneers will focus on his playing ability
After two years of not playing in the fall, a restless Chartric Darby decided to take up a little spring ball in 2000. Darby, a 6-0, 270-pound defensive tackle who dominated on the I-AA level in college but had yet to come out of an NFL training camp with a permanent job, choose the NFL Europe League to get back into the action. Good choice.
On Monday, Darby signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were impressed with his efforts in the NFLEL. Darby, in fact, impressed a lot of teams with his showing for the Barcelona Dragons, but he chose to sign with the Bucs because he believed he would get a fair shake in training camp.
"Most definitely," said Darby on Monday when asked if he was happy to have landed in Tampa just two weeks before the team opened camp at the University of Tampa. "I'm happy to be in this organization, an organization that does not worry about your size. They worry about your ability and what you can do on the field. That's really what made me choose Tampa.
"(The Bucs) never look at a player for his size. You look at him for his ability and what he can contribute to the team."
Darby has been impressed with the Bucs' willingness to allow supposedly undersized players like Warrick Dunn, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Shaun King and Jacquez Green to prove themselves on the field. As the newest Buc noted, that attitude has paid off well for the team in recent years.
"Those guys, every last one of them are players, ballers. They play a tremendous part in the NFL…Warren Sapp is one of the best by far…Brooks, bar none, one of the best…King…the characteristics of this club are one of a kind."
Obviously, the Buccaneers were swayed by Darby's characteristics as well. The team kept a close eye on his progress during the recently-completed NFLEL season, which began with a full-league training camp held in Orlando in February. At various times, most of the Bucs' personnel department, including General Manager Rich McKay and Director of Football Administration John Idzik, visited the NFLEL camp to get a closer look. Darby was considered a strong prospect, so the team made a special effort to watch NFLEL game videos to see how he would perform in game action.
Coordinator of Pro Scouting Mark Dominik also made it to Orlando in February and got his first look at Darby. "We were looking for anybody that 'flashed' for us, anybody that looked like they showed some athletic ability," said Dominik.
The Bucs saw a little of that in Darby at the camp, but gained more appreciation for his abilities after the games began in Europe. "In the game film is really where we picked him up," said Dominik. "That's where he showed more effort, more hustle, more intensity…those kinds of things. He doesn't measure up to the prototypical (defensive linemen) in terms of height and speed, but he does show up in terms of how he chases a quarterback, runs after a play, finishes. Those are the types of things that we look for in a player, and he does those things. He's an explosive, strong kid."
That was evident on the collegiate level, where Darby starred at I-AA South Carolina State in his home state. Darby, who hails from a small town called, simply, North, was the runner-up for MEAC defensive player of the year as a senior after pacing the Bulldogs with 22 sacks plus 103 tackles and four fumble recoveries. For his career, he set a school record with 45.5 sacks, leading to his selection as a I-AA All-American.
In Europe, Darby was just as disruptive for the Dragons, tallying 8.5 sacks in 10 games, adding 30 tackles and showing consistently strong pursuit of the quarterback. After signing with the Bucs on Monday, Darby felt validated in his decision to go overseas for the spring season.
"To me, that was one of the best experiences I could have ever had," he said. "I think it was a good decision on my part to go over there, to go out and prove myself to everybody. Everybody was saying the same thing, that I was too short. 'You're only six-feet, you're only 270.' That played a big part in my decision, because I just wanted everybody to know that I could play on this level as well as a guy who's 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5."
Players like Brooks (6-0), Sapp (6-2) and King (6-0) have already proven that to the Buccaneers, of course. Darby just wants to follow in those footsteps.