College Football

Motivated by Father's Passing, Darden Impresses at UNT Pro Day

Jaelon Darden is poised to be the first Mean Green player to be selected in the NFL Draft in almost two decades

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For University of North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden, motivation to be great has never been a challenge.

“There’s a big chip on my shoulder because a lot of people judge by the looks, which is basically the size,” Darden said. “They don’t see the real me on the inside. They don’t see the heart I have.”

Jaelon is expected to be the first North Texas football player to be taken in an NFL draft since 2004 and impressed 29 NFL scouts at Mean Green Pro Day with an unofficial 40-yard dash at 4.46 seconds, and then later, running quick, crisp routes while catching everything thrown his way.

“I was nervous a little bit leading up to it,” Darden said. “But once I got on the field, that’s kind of my nature zone. That’s where I relieve my stress. And I think I did a great job out here.”

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The Houston native is small in size at 5’7”, but his stats at UNT were huge, as an all-American in 2020, Darden hauled in 19 touchdown grabs in 9 games for the Mean Green, on his way to becoming North Texas’s all-time leading receiver.

“It was unbelievable,” said North Texas head football coach Seth Littrell. “It makes calling plays a lot easier with a guy like that. You can always count on him, he has very reliable hands and you know he’s always going to get open. He’s one of those players that don’t come along very often and we are very blessed to have coached him.”

But maybe most impressively, Darden accomplished all of that While grieving the loss of his father, who, because of a heart condition, passed away about a year ago.

“That gave me a lot of motivation to keep my head down and do what I did on the field,” Darden said. “I’m proud of what I did and I know he is too.”

Making his father proud, making North Texas mean Green football history, and impressing NFL scouts along the way, motivated him to be great, which has never been a challenge for Jaelon Darden.

“That’s kind of what I push myself to show when I’m on the field, my heart,” Darden said. “Because, at the end of the day, that’s what matters. That’s what keeps me going.”

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