Sure, he was already committed to the Jayhawks, but it was still his first time working out under the watchful gaze of his future coaches - quarterbacks guru Ron Powlus in particular. So when he went back to camp in Lawrence, Kan. on Tuesday of last week, it felt a little different. A little more comfortable and relaxed.
It was fun.
"I honestly just had a great time out there," the 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback from Prairie Village (KS) Shawnee Mission East said. "It was my last football camp I'm going to attend, and what better way to go out with the Kansas Jayhawks and the school I'm committed to?"
Though Powlus and Charlie Weis Jr. - a student offensive assistant - were very complimentary of his performance, Darling said he left even more convinced that much work remained ahead of him before he would be ready to make his own mark on the Kansas program.
Friday, he opted to get a look at what is expected of quarterbacks learning under Powlus and Head Coach Charlie Weis on a daily basis by visiting the Lawrence, Kan. campus to take in the team's second practice of the season.
The up-tempo nature of the workout and the drive with which the entire team attacked each drill made an impression on him immediately.
"It's what a Division One, top-notch program was supposed to look like," Darling said. "They didn't fail to impress at all. I'm really excited to be a part of it in the future."
Naturally, he spent most of the time surveying the quarterbacks, in particular fifth-year transfer Dayne Crist.
A former five-star prospect who played his first four seasons with Notre Dame, Crist has worked his way into a leadership position with the Jayhawks and earned the respect of everyone on the team with his hard work and knowledge of the system.
"Obviously, Dayne Crist is a very special quarterback; a very special guy, honestly," Darling said. "Aside from the fact that he can throw pretty much any pass he wants whenever, he commands the offense. He points out that Mike (middle) linebacker on every single play, he changes the play when he wants to. He's just a general out there. It's something to watch."
This will be Darling's first high school season with Shawnee Mission East, and he's spent the summer working out, attending camps and participating in seven-on-seven events with his teammates, in preparation for what he feels is going to be a big year.
"We've been working hard all summer and putting everything we have into it," he said. "I'm just ready to go out there and play some football, play as hard as we can and as hard as our team can play."
"I'm humbled by the opportunity to play for Shawnee Mission East," Darling added. "It's just going to be a great year, I believe."
While he's focused on the present with the Lancers, last week he received his official offer in the mail from the University of Kansas - and it wasn't until he held the letter in his hands that he was hit by the full impact of what he'd achieved.
"I'm just very honored and humbled that KU believed in me when no one else did," Darling said. "Coach Weis sent (notice of the offer's arrival) to me via Facebook the day before, and it's just really exciting. I'm very blessed. God has blessed me so much, and all the hard work we have put in - my father and I have put in - is starting to pay off."