OVERLAND PARK — On Tuesday evening, after nearly six hours of football, Shawnee Mission East senior quarterback Jordan Darling could finally take a breath and relax. It had been an exhilarating — and exhausting — 24 hours. Just one day earlier, Darling had hopped in the car with his parents, Bill and Leslie, and made the drive to Lawrence to verbally commit to play football for Kansas and head coach Charlie Weis.
It was a momentous decision, a day to savor. But for Darling, an army brat who has played youth football in three states — and waited at home in Waco, Texas, as his mother was deployed in Afghanistan — it was an even sweeter moment.
“It’s very humbling,” Darling said. “I’m very excited to be part of KU and hopefully be part of that turnaround. I’m really looking forward to the future.”
For most of his life, Darling, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback, has been on the move. Leslie Darling, who is currently serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the First Cavalry Division in Ft. Hood, Texas, has spent her career in the army, while Bill is retired military. Together, they raised five boys — Jordan is the youngest — and hauled them from state to state.
Earlier this year, when Leslie was deployed in Afghanistan, she found out she’d been assigned to a position at Ft. Leavenworth. So father and son moved early, leaving behind Waco and settling in Overland Park as Leslie finished her tour.
“It is very difficult,” Leslie said of the moving. “But I know all the boys embraced all the different moves that we made.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Darling was one of the more sought-after pro-style quarterbacks in his class. Each stop meant a new school — and new teammates.
It’s not unlike a classic Hollywood script: Hotshot quarterback shows up in town, heads to a new school and has to win over a new group of teammates.
The fact that this situation is eerily similar to that of KU quarterback Dayne Crist, another skilled quarterback in a different town, isn’t lost on Darling. But it hasn’t been all new. The family once lived in Platte County, and Darling’s older brother, Matthew, played quarterback at Platte County for current SM East coach Chip Sherman.
“When Matthew played for Chip,” Leslie said. “Jordan was at all the games; he’d be at the camps, so he was familiar with Coach Sherman.”
When the Darlings showed up in Kansas, KU coach Charlie Weis immediately began to take an interest. Bill says that the family bonded with Weis over a story of the coach taking a trip to support the troops in Iraq. In addition, KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus, who played at Notre Dame, aggressively recruited Darling.
“Coach Weis is known for his quarterbacks,” Darling said, “And the kind of offense that they’re gonna run really fits me well.”
On Tuesday, Darling competed with his new teammates at the Red Bull Game Breakers 7-on-7 tournament at St. Thomas Aquinas. The Lancers finished second to SM West, but Darling was able to show off his strong arm and accuracy.
“They’ve made it a really smooth transition,” Darling said of his teammates. “It’s been a privilege to play with these guys.
“It’s something you don’t get used to, but you gotta learn to adjust. It’s part of being a quarterback. You gotta adjust in a game, and you gotta adjust in life.”