Alumni Spotlight Jaelon Darden: Former Eisenhower Eagle Now Making Mark with Tampa Bay Buccaneers
FROM PRACTICING ON THE GRASS FIELDS BEHIND EISENHOWER HIGH SCHOOL TO NOW STRIDING ACROSS THE TURFED PRACTICE FACILITY OF THE SUPER BOWL CHAMPION TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, JAELON DARDEN HAS HAD A HECK OF A JOURNEY.
Being a bit "undersized" in high school, Darden was overlooked by a lot of recruiters while being an all-district quarterback at IKE. He ended up with 15 offers and signed to North Texas where he flourished.
Darden left Denton as the Mean Green's all-time leader in career receptions (230), receiving yards (2,782) and receiving touchdowns (38). In May, Darden was taken with the 129th overall pick by the Buccaneers in the 2021 NFL Draft.
VYPE: From Eisenhower High School to now being in the NFL, what has this journey been like for you?
DARDEN: It's definitely a dream come true. I've been praying for this moment. Every day I wake up and I go out and attack my goals. So, I'm definitely grateful and blessed to be in this position.
VYPE: Take me back to draft night. What was it like getting that call from the Super Bowl Champions?
DARDEN: I cried. At the end of the day my mom always told me the power of the tongue is very powerful. I spoke to somebody two days before and they asked me who I wanted to play with, who was my favorite quarterback? I said Tom Brady. I guess God heard me and made that come true.
VYPE: You get to work with Tom Brady every day. What's that like?
DARDEN: It's a blessing. I've got a smile on my face every day just being out here. Not too many people have this opportunity, so I'm very thankful.
VYPE: What has it been like working with coach Bruce Arians?
DARDEN: He's a great guy. He talks to me every day and encourages me as much as he can. He also gets on to me when I do something wrong, which is needed as a coach-player relationship. I'm grateful for him taking a chance on me and bringing me into this organization.
VYPE: What's been the coolest training camp moment so far?
DARDEN: Tom Brady telling me I ran a nice route and me catching a touchdown from him. That's the most epic thing ever.
VYPE: Coming from 'Swoop Nation', what does Eisenhower High School mean to you?
DARDEN: It means a lot. It taught me to be a man. Being in neighborhood and the environment taught me to stay away from things and keep my head out of trouble. It paved the way for me to being disciplined. It helped me a lot to get to where I am at now.
VYPE: To current players at Eisenhower, what is your message to them?
DARDEN: Size doesn't matter, the heart does. Keep following your dreams and keep pushing. Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do. Get up and pray and give thanks to God and everything else will take care of itself.
This interview was conducted during the preseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and appears in the VYPE Aldine ISD Fall Edition.