Darby reflective as ASU career nears an end

Alden Darby's career as a Sun Devil is coming to a close. The senior boundary safety out of Long Beach, Calif. has only six practices in Tempe and one game left before he moves on to life following college. That might explain why Darby stayed at the Bill Kajikawa Practice Field when the veterans were excused after the first hour of practice on Saturday.

"I'm trying to stay on this field as long as possible," Darby admitted. "I know the time is ticking and I'm just trying to explain to these young guys how important it is to cherish these moments. Cherish waking up in the morning and going to meetings and having a team, a family, because after this it's just the real world. I'm just trying to cherish the moment."

Darby was certainly a bright spot on an excellent 2013 Arizona State defense, recording 66 total tackles in all 13 games – good for second on the team – and four interceptions, including one for a touchdown versus USC.

But perhaps Darby's biggest impact has come on the practice field and off the field in his tenure as a Sun Devil. The 5'11" 195-pound defensive back seems to always have an upbeat attitude and has a knack for helping others out. He mentioned that he wants his legacy as a Sun Devil to be a guy that's remembered for being happy, energetic and caring.

Throughout the year, from the early fall camp practices to now; Darby has been the most vocal in those sessions. He relishes in being a leader and mentor to the underclassmen who will ultimately fill in void the seniors are leaving behind.

Darby was there once before, a young player trying to make it on a college program, and he knows from experience how much a little guidance can go.

"It means a lot to have an impact on the younger guys," Darby said. "And just to see the younger guys look up to me and listen to me and help them grow, it means a lot."

For the first two years of his career as a Sun Devil, Darby was a part of an undisciplined program under then head coach Dennis Erickson that failed to reach their potential. At the conclusion of Darby's sophomore season, a year in which the Devils were one of the favorites to win the South yet wound up winning only six games; Arizona State made the coaching switch to Todd Graham.

"Just the leadership and discipline," Darby explained of the difference between Erickson and Graham. "Same players and same talent, but when you mix a little leadership, character and discipline you get this for a result."

But the change didn't come without struggle, according to Darby. Players left over from Erickson's team had a hard time adapting to Graham's ways.

"It was tough for us to adjust to all of the difference that Coach Graham brought in here," Darby recalled. "But once we saw everything and the results of what he was saying was positive, it just got a lot easier to buy in."

Graham hasn't been shy about sharing his thoughts about this senior class, and what it meant for them to accept the changes and trust the system that he was trying to instill in Tempe. He's said constantly that this has been the most challenging team he's ever coached, but the most fun and rewarding at the same time.

Graham and the seniors have transformed the vibe around Tempe and created a winning atmosphere. While the 2013 team didn't achieve their goal of going to the Rose Bowl, they have the chance to win 11 games for the first time in over a decade.

Darby has seen the program go through ups and downs in his four years at ASU, but he along with the rest of the seniors feel that the program is on the upswing. After the loss to Stanford last weekend, Darby was able to reflect on his collegiate, and what it's been like to be a part of this 2013 team, arguably the best product on the field since 1996.

"It's been great," Darby said in the postgame press conference. "I'm just going to go all the way back to my freshman year. I went through Coach Erickson there for two years and, the transition to Coach Graham. I remember coming in as a freshman, and I mean, this year has been wonderful. It's been a blessing to experience what we've experienced this season. I mean, of course our greatest accomplishment was going to the Rose Bowl and a National Championship. But at the end of the day I feel like we had a very good season. It's not over now. We've got to get the 11th win.

"But I feel like we're in a good spot now, and we've shown signs of greatness, and that we can play with the top dogs. We've just got to figure out a way to get it done and finish."

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