A starter at free safety as a freshman for the Aggies, the 6-3, 220 Darden won the starting quarterback job as a sophomore and had a successful season despite running the Wing-T offense, an offense designed to run the ball with little passing game options. After throwing for just over 900 yards, the coaches decided to throw the ball more with Darden the following year and the results cashed in.
Spreading the field and allowing Darden to use his strong arm and good decision-making, Albertville had a breakthrough year in 2002. Advancing deep into the playoffs, it used the offensive prowess of Darden to take the team to the next level. He threw for 2,495 yards and 23 touchdowns and also ran the ball for 500 more yards and seven touchdowns. It's those kinds of numbers that have had schools from all over the South beating a trail to Albertville this spring.
"It's been a little hectic," Darden says. "There have been several coaches to come by. It's kind of just getting started. I've heard from Auburn and Vanderbilt and Ole Miss both came today (Monday). I've heard from Middle Tennessee State and Ole Miss also. I think Memphis has contacted me as well."
The son of an Auburn graduate who remembers coming to his first Auburn game in 1992 when Heisman Trophy Winner Bo Jackson had his jersey retired, Darden says there are a lot of things to like about the Auburn program right now. After visiting a spring practice with his father, he feels like the Tigers are a team on the brink of something special this fall.
"I like Coach Tuberville (Tommy Tuberville) a lot," Darden says. "I talked to him a good bit when I came down there this spring. I liked him a lot and I liked the facilities. I think they are going to have a real good team next year. They have a lot of guys coming back. I like that.
"Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Ole Miss are probably my top five," he adds. "That's why I'm going to their camps. I like Southern Miss a lot as well. I just want to play in the SEC. That would be good with me. I've always been an Auburn fan. My dad went to school there, but I've always liked Alabama too."
An all-around athlete that excels in both basketball and football, Darden is a kid that enjoys playing whatever is in season for Albertville. A three-year starter at forward, he averaged 12 points and eight rebounds last season for the Aggies on the hardwood. The starting center fielder in baseball, he hit .370 with two home runs and 25 RBI as his team advanced to the second round of the Class 5A State Playoffs before losing to Hartselle. They finished with a record of 25-15.