March 16, 2006

Darby looking to make history at Alabama

When Kenneth Darby left his home in Huntsville for the University of Alabama three years ago, he promised his mother, Alfredia, he'd get an education.

True to his word, Darby is on track to graduate in August.

"I had to get my degree," Darby said. "My mom always told me to go to college and get that degree."

Darby's degree will be in Communications, but he has also studied some history, too.

Crimson Tide Running Backs 101.

Even though a native of Alabama, he never paid that much attention to Crimson Tide football before he arrived in Tuscaloosa. He was too busy starring at running back and linebacker for Butler High School.

However, Darby didn't take long to learn about Alabama's tradition. He is now familiar with the history of great running backs like Johnny Musso, Wilbur Jackson, Bobby Humphrey and Shaun Alexander, among others.

"I learned a lot about the running backs that have been here before me," he said. "A lot of great running backs came through here. I respect anybody who wore this crimson jersey."

Darby has learned Alabama history. He might make it, too.

He may attain legendary status if he maintains status quo.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 205-pound senior has exceeded the 1,000-yard benchmark in each of the last two seasons. If he enjoys another typical season in 2006 he will become the first in Alabama history to notch three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

That's not an accomplishment to rival those of George Washington or Neil Armstrong, but in Tuscaloosa it would be revered.

Darby, with 10 career 100-yard games and 2,489 career rushing yards, also has a chance to break Alabama's record of 15 career 100-yard games. That mark is shared by Alexander and Humphrey.

Another mark is within reach - Alexander's career rushing record of 3,565 yards. Darby needs 1,077 to break that mark.

Darby isn't counting his yards before they're gained. He hasn't given much thought to milestones.

"Believe it or not, it hasn't hit me yet," he said. "I haven't thought about it. I know the season coming up could be a great season. It will hit me when the season starts because I know it's within reach. I can't wait for the season to get here."

Perhaps he hasn't looked that far ahead because he cannot afford to. Running backs don't gain yards without the football, and this spring sophomore Jimmy Johns and redshirt freshman Roy Upchurch have shown they also deserve some carries.

Upchurch rushed for 76 yards and had a 44-yard touchdown run in one scrimmage.

Many think Johns may be the best pro prospect of the lot.

However, Darby also asserted himself with impressive plays. He avoided contact at the line and then quickly burst into the secondary for a long run in practice on Tuesday.

"I can still get a lot better," Darby said. "I'm working on fundamentals every day and I'm always trying new things."

He's even working on returning punts and kickoffs, duties he hasn't performed since high school.

Obviously, Darby wants the football in his hands as often as possible, which will enhance his chances of making Alabama history.

And with four returning starters in the offensive line and a proven fullback to block for him, Alabama fans will be excited to watch Darby make a run at it.

That includes Alfredia Darby. But to her those possible football records would play second fiddle.

"She's going to be more excited that I'm graduating," Darby said.




 

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