nice article on Mougey for those who remember the posts from his bro on BNuts
nice article on Mougey for those who remember the posts from his bro on BNuts
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As the fireworks exploded in the night sky above Chaparral High School, washing the happy faces of the Class of 2004 and its loved ones in hues of red, blue and orange, Darren Mougey smiled wide and attempted to absorb what was upon him.
"I don't think everything has sunk in," he said the next day. "I'm done with high school and home living."
Three days later, on the last weekend in May, Mougey was cruising along Interstate 8, headed for San Diego. And so began a summer that will be spent shuffling (two weeks here, two there) between the desert and the coast, preparing for an odyssey that is almost unheard of in Division I football.
The jewel of the San Diego State recruiting class, Mougey will compete in August with junior Matt Dlugolecki and redshirt freshman Kevin O'Connell for the starting quarterback job. He has a legitimate chance to be the Aztecs' QB and will almost certainly see at least some playing time his first season.
The Darren Mougey file
Size: 6-foot-5, 225 pounds
Honors: SuperPrep All-America QB, ranked No. 25 in the country and No. 3 in Arizona. All-State selection by Arizona Republic and the state's coaches.
High school: Led Chaparral High to the state semifinals last year and to state title as a junior.
Statistics: As a junior, passed for 2,129 yards and 29 TDs and rushed for 308 yards and nine TDs. As a senior, passed for 2,218 yards and 32 TDs and rushed for 290 yards and six TDs.
"We think he can play right away," coach Tom Craft said. "If he's not ready for the whole thing, if we can put part of a package together so he can play and get experience at that position and benefit the offense, then I'm going to do it."
For Mougey, it is time to grow up fast. Again.
"I'm definitely ready for the next step," he said.
Ever since Linda Mougey put him through a second year of kindergarten, Darren Mougey always has been ready for the next step.
He is not the typical incoming freshman. For one thing, he turned 19 on April 7, 1½ months before O'Connell did.
When Darren was 7, Linda would have to show his birth certificate at soccer games because other parents challenged the boy's age. He was 5-foot-8 by the end of the seventh grade and 6-foot-2 when he entered high school.
"And he just kept going," Linda said.
But he was a string bean. It wasn't but three years ago that a bare-chested Darren would flex and announce, "I'm ripped."
His mom would laugh and say, "Those are ribs."
Toward the end of his sophomore year, Darren began to hit the iron and retain the weight.
Now he is 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb spends time in the Phoenix area during his offseason working out with the same trainer as Mougey. A newspaper photo of the two together last year is renowned locally for the contrast between the ripped 18-year-old and the little-bit-puffy Pro Bowler.
"You look at some of the quarterbacks now, you can see it's a new age of athlete," said Tony Tabor, Chaparral's defensive line and strength coach. "But for him to be one of the strongest kids on the team is pretty impressive for the position he plays."
The day he graduated, just to see what he could do, Mougey bench-pressed 225 pounds 19 times. That's the weight at which NFL scouts test prospective draft picks, and a solid defensive lineman can usually do 25 to 30 reps.
It did not take long for his new Aztecs teammates to notice something was different about the new kid.
"The guys out here are talking about how accurate his throws are and how strong his throws are," linebacker Stephen Larsen said after a group of players held a voluntary workout one recent evening. "He's so well-developed, it's amazing. He's going through some growing pains, which are to be expected by anyone stepping up a level. He'll get through those, and he's going to be pretty exciting to watch around here for a few years."
Mougey, a two-time all-state selection, is considered one of the top dual-threat QB prospects in the nation. His senior year (while usually playing just three quarters), he threw for 1,733 yards and 26 TDs with only two interceptions, and ran for five scores.
Doug Mougey watched his half-brother's graduation ceremony, and his gaze got a faraway look as he blinked back tears.
"Our dad was the center of our family, the rock," he said.
Doug and sister Stacy, who have a different mother than Darren, live in Ohio. They visit and talk with their family in Arizona frequently. Doug has a perspective afforded by many years and a few thousand miles.
"Dad was big on what football taught him, not just in a sports sense but in life, in business, teamwork," Doug said. "That's what Darren was brought up on. I think Darren internalized a lot of the things my dad talked about, and it motivated him to accomplish the things he has.
"He is to a tee what my dad wants in a kid. He truly is. It's not an act. He disciplined himself and decided, 'This is what I want to be.' It's hard to imagine someone 19 years old, graduating from high school, having it all together, but I think he does."
Mougey's aptitude runs deeper than a 4.53-second 40-yard dash time and the ability to throw a ball 60 yards in the air flat-footed.
Life experience dictates some people grow up faster than others.
"Darren has been through more than most adults," Linda Mougey said.
She was speaking of all Darren saw and did as a result of the brain tumor that killed his father five years ago.
The elder Doug Mougey, who had been a quarterback at Southern Illinois, was Darren's coach every year of youth football. He was coaching Darren's seventh-grade team when he was diagnosed. He was dead six months later.
It was always Doug pushing Darren in football, and Linda gave her son the option of quitting the sport after his father died.
Darren, however, needed football.
"It was instilled in me," he said, "and I had grown to love it."
The death of his father also quickened Darren's maturation.
Linda was forced to go back to work, and the care of younger brother Robby often fell to Darren and his sister Stefanie, one year his elder.
"He's just had to deal with a lot of issues and sort of been like the father figure in the house at an early age," Linda said. "I've always been able to count on him. He had to be serious so early."
Darren does not say a lot about that period, but he does know it shaped him.
"You learn to cope with it," he said. "You have to look on the bright side. I feel lucky to have spent 13 years with my dad. Whatever he taught me made me a better person.
"You learn to not sweat the little stuff. You look at life in the big picture. Sometimes I get worked up, and then I sit back and say, 'Why am I getting all caught up in this? I've got so much to live for.' "
Darren Mougey doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't drink soda and generally makes decisions that show measured thought.
"He's been a kid," Chaparral football coach Ron Estabrook said. "But he's always been focused on the important things – school, family and football."
Mougey said his father's death taught him to "make cautious choices."
That explains in part the process of picking SDSU.
For Mougey, the Aztecs were always out front.
His family often vacationed in San Diego. His high school team held camp at SDSU in the summers. He always thought it would be a great place to live.
He sent SDSU a tape of his junior season highlights before last summer, hoping to get the school's attention. The Aztecs offered him a scholarship a short while later after Chaparral had participated in a passing camp at SDSU.
But between then and his Dec. 17 commitment, there were fits and starts, with his education-minded mom and his uncle, an Arizona State alumnus, gently pushing him to look elsewhere.
Vanderbilt, an outstanding academic school, was his first scholarship offer. It intrigued his mom. And she was ecstatic when Stanford came calling. But even before Mougey found out his GPA and test scores were slightly below what Stanford required, he had decided against the Cardinal because he "didn't think I'd fit in well."
While SDSU coaches remained confident they had their man, Arizona State stepped up its interest. Northwestern and Utah inquired.
But Linda would see Darren "light up" every time Craft or quarterback coach Brian Stark visited or called.
"He was so excited," Linda said. "I said, 'Y'know what, Linda, you better let him follow his dream.' We decided Darren should follow his heart, follow his instincts, and he really believes in Coach Craft."
After getting an SDSU playbook after a spring visit to the school, Mougey immersed himself in it. When Aztecs coaches found out he'd been studying hard, they told him to lay off.
Craft chuckled before explaining the coaches' rationale.
"Sometimes, student-athletes can create more of an uphill battle for themselves," he said. "We like to give it to them in parts. We want him to grasp the concepts fundamentally and not try to do too much too fast. From a mental standpoint and from a physical standpoint, if a guy goes and throws on his own without a coach he can groove bad habits that we have a real hard time trying to change and correct."
Taking it a little slow is fine with Darren for now. He finds himself in a quandary. He always has set high standards. For this next step, however, he is trying to take it as it comes.
He knows what people are saying about him, that he was the prize recruit, that expectations are high.
"I haven't done anything yet," he said. "I haven't proven anything to anyone. I understand what it's all about. There's still a lot to be done.
"All I ask for is an opportunity, just for them to say they'll give me a shot."