Who is Darnell Mooney? Is he a fifth round draft pick, a bona-fide wide receiver, or still just a young kid, determined to make a name for himself. Mooneys’ story begins in the town of Gadsden, Alabama, population 35,000, as the star of the Gadsden City High School’s football program.
Darnell Mooney had gotten used to being underrated, pushed aside, left as an afterthought. Coming out of High School, he was ranked at the 351st best Wide Receiver in the Nation, and 91st in the state of Alabama. Though these rankings may not normally present as “future NFL star”, Mooney is anything but normal. First in last out is a mentality that Mooney was forced to develop, being that he was not supremely athletic to everyone around him, this mentality thrust him into the role of a leader, one that leads by example. His stellar drive and determination carried him to an amazing senior season, in which he made the all-state first team for Alabama. His season helped to attract attention, just not by the caliber of teams Mooney wanted, that he knew he deserved. There was one Division I school, one which saw a diamond in the rough, and even though he was labeled as a 2 star recruit, Tulane head coach Willlie Fritz took a chance on him. Finally given an opportunity to prove to the world who he is, Mooney committed February 2nd, 2016.
Mooney got to New Orleans, and immediately became a playmaker. Playing regular minutes as a true freshman, Mooney was able to “… learn the system quickly and [didn’t] make mistakes.” (Tulane coach Willis Fritza on Bears All-Access radio show on WSCR 60 AM) Furthermore, his work ethic and passion for the game continued to shine through, continuing his first in last out mentality “he was [always] on the JUGS machine for half an hour after every practice,” demonstrating his will to become the best. As a true freshman he put up modest numbers, receiving 267 yards, on 24 catches, and 2 touchdowns. He may not have been a stat monster from the beginning, but he was furthering his reputation within the school as “…a big time gym-rat” and “…always trying to learn more.” Despite not always being the biggest player on the field, Mooney showed the coaching staff his grit in even the dirtiest parts of the game, blocking, “…for a smaller guy, he’s going to battle you. He’s going to get in the middle of you and block. It’s so important.”
Mooney entered his Sophomore year ready to showcase himself, and he did, more than doubling his yards with 599, and doubling his touchdowns with four. Mooney had become one of the most promising players on the roster, and with the same passion that had driven him his entire career, he broke out as a Junior. He almost cracked 1,000 yards with 999 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns, firmly cementing himself as the star, being honored as a second-team all ACC selection, and becoming a strong NFL prospect. His Senior season was a slight downturn from his Junior year, as he recorded 713 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His draft stock slightly fell, being ranked by NFL.com as a fifth rounder, and a career projection as an average backup. He was then selected in the 5th round with the 173rd pick by the Chicago Bears, beginning his NFL career.
After reaching the NFL, Mooney displayed his incredible work ethic and humility, as in comparison to other players who buy expensive cars and houses with their first paycheck, he bought a JUGS machine, to continue becoming the best possible player he can. Not much needs to be said about Darnell Mooney once entering the league, as he has quickly progressed into a 1,000 yard receiver and a genuine wide receiver one. Now the question becomes, if once again, he can lead this young and hungry Bears offense to success.