The Bucs traded up eight spots in the fourth round to land draft North Texas receiver Jaelon Darden on Saturday afternoon.  At 5-8, 174 pounds, most would consider him undersized, but Darden has used the criticism as fuel to reach this point.

“It got me to where I am today,” Darden said. “Coming from high school, going into college and up until now it kind of played a big part. I kind of keep that on my shoulder. That keeps me going and keeps me motivated. A lot of times [I’ve been] working out with people not seeing that I’m still carrying that on my shoulder and still running that in my brain to help myself be able to become a better me each and every time I take the field.”

North Texas WR Jaelon Darden

North Texas WR Jaelon Darden – Photo courtesy of North Texas

He has another source of motivation every time he plays. His late father, Manya Darden,  passed away last summer before Jaelon’s senior year. Darden spoke on how he kept his dad close during this whole process.

“It definitely means a lot,” Darden said. “But actually it feels like he’s still here because I have a lot of merchandise with him on it to kind of keep him close with me. It definitely means a lot. We prayed about this, cried about this moment here, so it definitely means a lot. I’m definitely going to have to keep going and keep pushing.

“Throughout my four years at North Texas, my dad was sick. He was dealing with heart problems, so we kind of built a strong relationship over that time with me growing as a man – him being able to install certain things into me and be able to help me mature and become the man I am today.”

Darden will come into a situation where he’s expected to contribute on special teams with his 4.46 speed, and is open to the possibility of being the Bucs’ kick returner.

“[Returning] is definitely a strong [part] of my game,” Darden said. being able to catch those punts and being able to put the offense in the best situation possible. I definitely don’t have any problem with that. I feel confident in coming in right away and being able to help however needed.”

As a receiver Darden had a school record best 19 touchdowns in 2020 in just 19 games. Some players just have a knack of finding the end zone and Darden falls into that category.

“That has always been in me,” Darden said. “Putting points in the board and having the ball in your hands on offense – that’s the job. I more so pride myself on getting in there however needed or whichever way possible. No one is stopping me. I just have to get in there. That’s more so my mindset so I stick with that.” 

Darden appreciates where he landed. 

“I couldn’t actually ask [for] a better place to be,” Darden said. “To be able to learn from Tom Brady and learn from Antonio Brown, [Chris] Godwin, Mike Evans and all those other great guys [and] to be able to sit down and really learn, pick their brains and help myself become a better player means a lot. I’m really blessed for this opportunity and I’m thankful.”

Darden couldn’t contain his excitement of getting to play with Brady not long after the pick was made.

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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Alldaway 2.0
2 months ago

Darden is a nice weapon for Brady underneath. Lets Miller do his work over the top and Darden underneath. Oh and those other guys named Gronk, Evans, Godwin, Brate, Howard, and Johnson can feast.

Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
2 months ago

Ahem, lets not forget Mr. Antonio Business is Booming Brown

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  Chiizy613
2 months ago

Oh yeah that AB guy and playoff Lenny.

2 months ago

Darden would do well just to get on the field returning kicks and hopefully that gives him time to eventually progress into a receiver in a year or two.

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
2 months ago

Darden was one of the better receivers in college football. Darden makes this team and he is going to be used on game days on offense.

Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
2 months ago

No offense, but barring injuries, this dude will never see the field. In fact, it’s more likely he’ll be cut than ever plays a single snap in an NFL game

Reply to  aredsoxfan1
2 months ago

Receivers get injured all the time. Every one of our starters ahead of him on the depth chart missed either entire games or were significantly limited on snaps in games they played last season due to injury. Darden, assuming he makes the roster cut, will get on the field during offensive snaps as a rookie. How many, depends upon a lot of unpredictable variables. Receivers get injured all the time. Every one of our starters ahead of him on the depth chart missed either entire games or were significantly limited on snaps last season due to injury. Darden, assuming he… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Naplesfan
2 months ago

U can’t teach speed. And speed kills. If this kid has the desire and skills he just might be a contributor this year, even if it’s only special teams. Special teams return game is the weakest link on this team.

Reply to  bucballer
2 months ago

4.5 forties speed is pretty common.

2 months ago

Say goodbye to Justin Watson unless bucs are keeping 8 receivers

2 months ago

What this kid has is YAC ability. Even Miller doesn’t go over the middle and run. Johnson will already be better at this.

I envision him winning the return duties, and us hearing they just couldn’t keep him the field.

Then we gave a Tyreek Hill situation.
You can always hope.