By Kyle Parmley
CLAY – Every person deals with adversity in life.
That was the message from Darrin Reaves, current running back for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and former local standout at Clay-Chalkville and UAB.
Reaves hosted the first annual Darrin Reaves Elite Skills Academy on Friday and Saturday for kids between the ages of seven and 18. The idea was to use football and competition as a means of teaching how to fight through struggles and setbacks.
“At the end, we had 7-on-7 [games],” he said of the Saturday portion of the camp. “We had a lot of guys face adversity and we saw them fight through it. They got a taste of how to overcome it.”
That point was also driven home on Friday, when Reaves brought along Tim Alexander to tell his story. Alexander has been confined to a wheelchair for several years following a car accident, and was instrumental in leading the student effort to revive UAB football.
But Reaves did not have to look much further for another example of climbing mountains to reach goals. His own story is full of them.
“I was overlooked many times,” he said. “I didn’t have the scholarship offers that some guys have, but I just continued to work through it.”
One of those scholarship offers was from UAB, whose football program has been in the news recently with the announcement that it will be given the opportunity to come back after being shut down last December. Reaves was adamant that the area needs a quality football program.
“I feel UAB football was essential to Birmingham. Alabama is a football state. Football rules here. For Birmingham to not have a top-tier football team would be a disgrace. Having football back at UAB is great for the guys in this community,” Reaves said.
Returning to the field that he played on during his high school years was special for the Clay native. He also enjoyed the opportunity to coach a younger group of kids, knowing many of their older siblings and fathers.
“It feels good to give back to the kids in the community,” Reaves said.
Reaves mentioned being proud of the current success of the Clay-Chalkville football program, but does not want people to forget about the players and teams in Coach Jerry Hood’s first few years that put the successful process into motion.
“The first team when Coach Hood got here [in 2009], I was a junior on that team, really built the foundation of Cougar football. You see what great things have been done since,” he said.
Reaves played in six games for the Panthers last season, picking up a total of 77 yards rushing on 32 carries. A visit with Carolina’s general manager encouraged him as he moves forward with his offseason training.
“Year 2 is going to be a great year for me,” Reaves said. “The second year in the NFL shows the biggest growth for a player. I’m feeling that growth right now. I’m learning how to eat right, how to recover, and I’m picking up on the little small things that help put your game over the edge.”
A big second year could help establish his status at the highest level of football.