When it was announced that former University of Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington II was kicked off the team in July after being arrested on a DUI charge, speculations arose on whether another school should and if so, what team, would give Carrington another shot. This wasn’t the first incident where Carrington’s name has been in the mix, and that was why at the time, those questions seemed too shaky to answer.
Carrington had previously been suspended for failing an NCAA-run drug test that resulted in him missing the 2015 College Football Playoff national championship, plus the first five games of the following season. Then in September of 2015, Carrington was cited for an open container violation. This past October, Carrington allegedly pushed a man off a curb which resulted in the man’s arm breaking.
People might say those events are red flags and should be reason enough to not give second chances, but the University of Utah football team saw past that. Carrington, who decided to return for his senior season instead of entering the 2017 NFL draft, wasn’t afraid he wouldn’t play football again after being dismissed.
“I was going to go somewhere, even if it was a level down,” Carrington said. “I just kept faith and kept working, and I knew that there was going to be an opportunity to come and I wanted to take full advantage of it.”
The former Duck was the team’s leading receiver in 2016 with 43 receptions for 606 yards and five touchdowns, but his talent was no longer going to be exposed in a green and yellow uniform — he was headed elsewhere. Teams like Washington State and the University of Central Florida were among the list of schools Carrington was thinking of transferring to, but when he met Utah wide receivers coach Guy Holliday, he knew Utah would be the next place to call home.
With hopes to improve at his position, Carrington felt Holliday was the right man to help him. Carrington describes Holliday as somebody who is “real” and who “knows the game of receiver.” Not only was it because of what Holliday knows on the field that influenced Carrington’s decision, it was what he said and did that also played a role. He said Holliday told him that not everybody will look into his whole story, but rather read just what the media puts out.
“He dug in and knows the truth,” Carrington said. “He just told me I got to come in here and work and just keep being me.”
Carrington said he didn’t know anything about Utah, but he was quickly taken under the wings of his new football family. He quickly learned that brotherhood is what makes Utah the team it is. He noticed how the defensive line hangs out with receivers, the offensive line with the defensive backs and the quarterbacks with everybody. However, it’s not just the athletes who come together. He saw how the coaches joke around and are able to let loose with their players. He said they aren’t just coaches, they are friends, and that motivates him to want to play the best he can.
Carrington was an addition to the Utah offense that came at a time when the team was beginning to implement a new one, and if the team grasped it correctly, it would highlight Carrington’s abilities — this time in a red and white uniform.
“He’s a great receiver,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “He runs good routes, he’s got a big catch radius, he’s got length and you put the ball in the general vicinity, he’s going to come away with it.”
In his debut as a Ute, Carrington led the way with 10 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Huntley credits the success the two had in the season opener to practices where the two were able to get a feel for each other and their game.
That evening, after his first appearance as a Ute, Carrington expressed the appreciation he had for being able to continue to play the game he loves despite his checkered past.
“I’m just happy to be here,” Carrington said. “Thankful for another chance.”
In this world, doubters are constantly lurking in the shadows, but overcoming obstacles can be done with the right people set in place to help. For Carrington, his Utah teammates and coaches are those people, and this season is his time to show what he’s all about.
“I don’t really care what people say,” Carrington said. “I don’t really care about other people’s opinions at all. All that matters to me is what God thinks and my team. Everybody has their mistakes, but it’s how you come back.”