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Iowa football: Dowling Catholic graduate making most of early chance at Michigan

[ 0 ] November 12, 2012 |

Michigan freshman Amara Darboh, right, a Dowling Catholic grad, has played plenty on special teams for the Wolverines. (US PRESSWIRE)

For now, anyway, Amara Darboh knows the Michigan playbook better than he does the school’s campus.

“I don’t get lost when I walk to class as much now as I used to, but I still can get lost sometimes,” the former West Des Moines Catholic football star said last week. “Everything about this place is a learning experience for me.”

Darboh was just wrapping up the Iowa high school football playoffs at this time last season. Today, he’s preparing for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Iowa at Michigan Stadium, where a win by the 23rd-ranked Wolverines keeps them in the hunt for the Big Ten’s Legends Division title.

He’ll be on the punt team, the punt return team and the kickoff team. He’ll occasionally be at receiver for a team with considerable depth at that spot.

“I came to school with an open mind,” Darboh said. “I was prepared for anything. I wanted to play right away if I could, but I was OK if they wanted to redshirt me, too.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder played in a season-opening loss against Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Then came the moment for which he’d been waiting.

It was finally time for Darboh’s first home game experience in the 110,000-seat stadium — and his first chance to run under the traditional “Go Blue” banner — when the Wolverines hosted Air Force.

Amara Darboh ultimate photo gallery

“I’ll never forget that experience,” Darboh said. “You see the banner in person, and you see it on TV, but to actually get out there and do it for the first time — that was a little intimidating.”

He not only participated in one of college football’s most storied traditions for the first time, he also had two tackles in his home debut.

He has four tackles in nine games after spending most of his career as a receiver at Dowling.

“My junior year, I played some defensive end,” Darboh said. “I think I might have had one tackle, something like that.”

Some defensive end?

He played one series, and it was in the state championship game against Iowa City High. His one tackle was a sack just a few plays before the Maroons hoisted the 2010 state championship trophy.

Darboh showed during fall practice at Michigan, however, that he was good enough to be on the field immediately. Someplace.

“I knew that playing special teams was a possibility,” Darboh said, “so I worked hard all summer preparing for it. I had to get stronger.”

It wasn’t the first time Darboh experienced something new. He came to the United States when he was 7, with others seeking a haven from Freetown, a city in the African nation of Sierra Leone with a
population of 1.2 million.

“It was a refugee program,” Darboh said during a previous interview. “We randomly got picked to come to Des Moines.”

He first lived with others in a Des Moines apartment. He later ended up at Dan and Mary Schaefer’s house, thanks to a friendship made on a Beaverdale Little League baseball diamond.

“I got to be close friends with Max,” Darboh said of the Schaefers’ son. “Whatever Max did, I did. We built a relationship.”

His adopted family will be somewhere among the masses at Saturday’s game.

“That stadium is amazing,” Darboh said. “The first time you’re in there, the first thing you do is look around at how many people are there. It was a little intimidating for me the first time as a player, and I can only imagine what it’s like when you’re an opponent.”

Note: Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said senior quarterback Denard Robinson is “day to day” while recovering from a strain in the ulnar nerve in his throwing elbow he suffered against Nebraska on Oct. 27. His status for Saturday’s game against Iowa remains in doubt.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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