Daron Roberts grew up in a small, rural town in East Texas. Like many others living in Mount Pleasant, Daron found himself totally obsessed with football throughout his formative years. Although it was never his primary goal in life to play in the NFL his love for the game remained constant throughout his adolescence. It eventually prompted him to abort a potential career in law to coach football full time. The story of his journey is eye-opening and enlightening, and if you’re interested in learning more about it then click the picture below to purchase the short read on Amazon.
I got the chance to ask Daron some questions the other week, mostly about how he managed to transition from law to football and why. I wanted to interview Daron because I view his journey as a success story. He is certainly an inspiration to me and his body of work following law school speaks volumes about the virtue of working diligently in a professional atmosphere. As a traveler, I’ve always loved learning about an individual’s background and how it shapes his/her virtues and values. Although Daron is one of ~330 million Americans just like you and I he grew up in Texas, which is fairly different from growing up in New York.
Q: Growing up in Mount Pleasant, how did that shape you as a person?
I was raised in a close-knit family. One parent was a preacher, the other a teacher. I value God and education highly. I have an older sister as well. We’re a religious, Baptist family. I played football throughout high school. I was 1st team a All-District safety standing at 5’9″, 165 pounds and absolutely loved football.
Q: Is high school football in Texas as crazy as I’ve seen it portrayed in the media and various TV shows? Did you dream of playing in the NFL one day?
Definitely. The people here love the game, and no not at all. I always wanted to be a lawyer. I had no plans to play football past high school. I had my sights set on becoming an academic.
With his sights set on becoming a lawyer, Daron wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best education he could receive. That came in the form of a post-graduate acceptance to Harvard Law; however, it wasn’t an easy task to accomplish. He applied four times before receiving an acceptance letter.
Q: You went through the application process for Harvard Law four times. How confident were you with each application that you would get accepted, and what helped you persevere?
Confident enough to apply four times and get waitlisted. I knew I had what it would take. I was trained well at the University of Texas and Mount Pleasant High School, so I was very confident. A “no” is an opportunity to recraft an application and get a yes.
Q: Do you have any tips for dealing with rejection?
You’d have to think, “What’s the end goal?” I think you have to notice there are going to be times when people tell you “no”. That gives you an opportunity to adjust your strategy.
During a summer break between semesters Daron, was recruited by a friend to help coach at Steve Spurrier’s summer football camp in South Carolina. It was at that summer camp that Daron decided he wanted to coach football instead of pursuing a career in law.
Q: What prompted you to complete your studies at Harvard despite having your heart set on coaching football? Do you believe it is important for people to complete their studies despite experiencing a change of heart?
I’m not crazy. I knew that a Harvard Law degree had value, and I love football, but a Harvard Law degree lasts longer than any kind of football experience I’ll ever have, so I was never thinking about leaving Harvard Law to coach football. Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, and you’re onto Facebook, and you leave Harvard after one year, it’s good to receive an education. It gives you a calling card for other people to help.
Q: Why is it important to chase your dreams?
Because you’re going to die at some point, so if you don’t chase your dreams you’re going to have a lot of regrets.
Q: You wrote 164 letters seeking an internship. What inspired that idea?
I wanted to coach football, so I needed to reach out to everyone who could possibly get me in the building.
Q: Why do you think this was the best way to “get in the building”?
I needed to do everything in my power.
Naturally, I wanted to know what life as a coach in the NFL is like.
Q: How did you cope with moving around the country during your coaching career?
I don’t know. I kind of just packed up my stuff and left. When you coach football you just do it. There’s no other option really.
Q: Who is the most talented player that you worked with?
Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.
Q: What is your favorite memory from coaching?
Beating Clemson [with West Virginia] in the Orange Bowl 70-33.
The unique aspect of interviewing Daron, aside from his incredible journey, is that his story doesn’t begin and end with the tenacity that earned him jobs across the country as a football coach despite having no prior experience in the professional game. It’s more about the person that he is, and that he’s helping students in Texas and Michigan prepare for life after high school. I concluded the interview with a couple questions about the company he founded in 2010. 4th and 1, LLC is a nonprofit that provides free ACT prep, football skills training, and life skills development to high school students in Texas and Michigan.
Q: When did you realize this was your next step?
Near the end of my Detroit Lions days.
Q: Where did this idea come from?
I thought it would be a good opportunity for kids to get something more than football.
Q: Why form a company like 4th and 1 and provide the type of services you do?
The kids need it. They don’t get it in high school, so that’s our job.
Q: You’ve had the help of some notable former Longhorns at your camps in the past (Derrick Johnson and Ahmad Brooks). If you could pick any player, past or present, to come advise and work with the kids who would it be?
Jim. Brown. He’s a good friend of mine, and I’m actually working with him to get him there.
Before ending my conversation with Daron he thanked me for thinking of him and encouraged me to work hard for what I want in the future. He signed off with his patented “no struggle, no progress” tagline.
Now I’m no big shot despite how much I like to think I am. I don’t get to pick and choose who I interview, but Daron’s remarkable achievements combined with a selfless soul made him an obvious candidate to reach out to. He’s done wonderful work getting himself to where he is today, and he’s keen to give back to the community. He’s the type of person that I strive to be, and I would urge others to be as well. Plus he’s a great follow for motivational support on Twitter (@CoachDKR).
If you’d like to follow me (why wouldn’t you?) click here. Thanks for reading and, as always, have a good one folks.