While the Seattle Seahawks try to tool up in free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft, one key to their development next year will be getting even more out of the young players from the 2017 draft class. One of those rookies, wide receiver Amara Darboh, caught eight passes for 71 yards and was in the lineup for 18-percent of offensive snaps.
Darboh was more of a factor on special teams, where he played 159 snaps on kickoff coverage, kick return and punt return. We had the chance to speak to Darboh last week when he was signing autographs for Panini USA, the NFL’s exclusive trading card partner, at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
He discussed which Seahawks influenced him the most during his rookie season, his desire to introduce youth football to his native Sierra Leone, the pending free agency of teammate Paul Richardson, and how he learned about Seattle hiring its new offensive coordinator through a news alert on his phone.
Field Gulls: Congratulations on finishing your first year in the NFL. What ways are you trying to expand your game or improve so you can contribute more on the offensive side in your second season?
Amara Darboh: As a bigger receiver I can be a big, physical target. That’s one thing I can help the team at. And also I can go across the middle and take big hits. I can make big plays when the team needs me. I feel like those are attributes I can have that I can contribute and help the team. I’m just working on being more productive, getting in the playbook, helping the offense move the ball, score. Just show the coaches that they can trust me at the end of the game. Make the plays, whatever it takes.
F.G.: Speaking of the coaches, have you had a chance to meet with the new offensive staff?
Darboh: No I haven’t met [new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer]. I saw it popped up on Bleacher Report or ESPN or something on my phone. That’s when I first saw it. We’re still waiting. I haven’t heard anything on that. I can’t really speak on that. I’m mainly just trying to focus on me or whatever. Whatever offense they decide to play, I’m just going to focus on getting those down and then trying to show them I’m the kind of guy who can be out there and contribute.
I played a Pro Style offense at Michigan, but I can play in any kind of system. I don’t think we’re going to change too much from what we’ve been doing. I could be wrong, but for me since I have no control over it it’s best to stay open minded and just learn whatever they throw at me the best that I can.
F.G.: At Michigan you played for Jim Harbaugh for your final two years. Fans on the West Coast are familiar with Harbaugh as a rival to Pete Carroll, both with the San Francisco 49ers and earlier when they were at Stanford and USC. What’s it like playing for both guys? What are the biggest differences?
Darboh: They’re a lot alike to me, to be honest. I only get to see them on the football side but they’re competitive and try to get the best out of their players. I like playing for both of them.
F.G.: Which Seahawks teammates had the biggest influence on you, or who were you closest to?
Darboh: All the rookies, we came together and were in the meetings together early on. We were there for the majority of the time and we hung out in the hotel and all that. Of course ’Lano (Darboh’s teammate on the Wolverines, rookie strong safety Delano Hill).
David Moore (seventh round pick out of East Central Oklahoma who spent most of 2017 on Seattle’s practice squad but joined the 53-man roster in November), we were in the receiver room together. He’s another bigger bodied guy. He’s pretty shifty for how big he is. He can make guys miss and he’s strong too, so those are two things that made an impression on me. They can use his strength in any way they need him to in the offense. And we enjoy the same thing, so we would go bowling and all that stuff.
F.G.: Bowling huh? Where do you like to go bowling?
Darboh: We went to Lucky Strike in Bellevue.
F.G.: You have an unusual background in that you came from Sierra Leone at a young age, after there was a civil war going on there. The Seahawks have a couple of other players with African roots, Germain Ifedi, whose family is Nigerian, and Rees Odhiambo who came originally from Kenya. Those are different places and you all have different journeys but was there much fellowship among the African players?
Darboh: We talked about being from Africa, but it’s really a whole bond with the team so I don’t just hang out with them. But we talked about it when we first got there and connected those things. We talked about going back there, and the differences in being raised in different cultures.
F.G.: So you’ve been back to Sierra Leone ever? Do they follow football at all over there?
Darboh: I have distant relatives in Sierra Leone, but they don’t know much about American football that I know of. It’s mainly soccer and basketball. So when we talk they don’t really ask about football. We just talk about it as work, because they don’t know too much about it.
F.G.: Would you ever want to be a part of introducing American football in that part of the world?
Darboh: Yeah. That would definitely be a good thing, to give the youth different sports to play. Everyone there does soccer but I’d like to show them different things. [When I got to America] football was just more popular here so that’s what led me into playing it. But I did play a lot of other sports growing up: Soccer, basketball, baseball and all that.
F.G.: Part of the reason you didn’t get on the field as much is, you know, Seattle has some pretty talented receivers. What kind of techniques did you learn, for example from Doug Baldwin, that can help you get more involved next year?
Darboh: Doug Baldwin, and from all the receivers, I learned about staying positive, you know, regardless of the results or their stats, wins or losses, at the end of the season they were positive. They just came in the next day ready to work. They didn’t mope or anything. Stay positive.
F.G.: What about Paul Richardson? Coming up on free agency he might not be here next year, but—
Darboh: I think he will end up coming back here. He made a lot of plays, he’s talented. I mean it’s not up to me to decide, but I think he would be back. We don’t really talk about it when we talk, we just talk about—I mean I don’t know if he can really control it either—but we just talk about work, and what we’re doing right now and training and different stuff going on in the world.
Paul and Tyler [Lockett] both helped tell me what to expect as a rookie and how it works out. How you need to come in to work every day even when you don’t feel as good. And P-Rich helped me a lot with releases from the line. Doug helped me with internal motivation. And [Jermaine] Kearse, when he was there too, he was helping me with a lot of stuff so all those guys were very helpful.
I look at it like I’m trying to follow my own path. You never know what roads you can take to success. I just try to control what I can control and make sure I’m ready for when we need to report. I just want to show up, be healthy and make plays. We all watch film together so I watch what they do and when we’re out on the field we talk about it, like releases and all that, so…
F.G.: Now that you’ve had that experience and learned from those guys, are you approaching the offseason any different? Now you don’t have to worry about the draft or anything, so how are you planning to spend your time?
Darboh: Just taking care of my body more. Even if I’m not hurting after practice, just try to do something to put my energy in. That’s the biggest thing. Used to be [in college] I would just leave after practice, maybe get in the cold tub every now and then. But I did it more this year, get in the cold tub and the hot tub and made sure I did something every day. Since it’s a long season, there’s more toll on your body and all that. There’s not been too much changed in my lifestyle, though. I try to keep it the same. Getting body right. Spending time with family. Working on things that I want to improve on.
F.G.: I heard you’re really into trading cards?
Darboh: My aunt was into it, she was just collecting cards and stuff and she was talking about it when I made it to the league because it was a lot bigger—that she liked having my name and my picture on trading cards was a big deal to me. So Panini USA marketing connected with me, asked me to come sign cards, show up to events like this. And we get a chance to meet and learn different people, the other rookies here who aren’t on our team. Learn about different things with business that NFLPA has in there too.
F.G.: Do you have any other sponsorships like that?
Darboh: Not really, I’m signed with Adidas too. I don’t have any local commercials or any of that yet but hopefully as my performance increases and start making big plays hopefully I’ll get some of that down the road.
F.G.: You’re going to get some of that Lucky Strike bowling money.
Darboh: Haha! I haven’t thought about that. Whatever comes I’ll be thankful for.