UAB quarterback Darrell Hackney recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Hackney has become one of the top signal-callers in Conference USA and is a returning senior in Birmingham this year. After throwing for nearly 3,100 yards, earning Third Team All-CUSA honors, and leading the team to seven wins in 2004, even bigger things are expected from the Atlanta, Georgia native this fall. The Blazers, who made the first-ever bowl appearance in the school's history last season, will open up the 2005 campaign on the road at Tennessee on September 3. (photo courtesy uabsports.com)
DARRELL HACKNEY, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM
SCS.com: You had a fabulous career at Douglass High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout your career, you threw for over 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Twenty-four of those TDs came during your senior season, a season that saw you earn City of Atlanta QB of the Year honors. When it came time to decide on a college, what other schools did you consider, and why did you ultimately decide to become a Blazer?
Hackney: "When crunch time came around, I had Western Michigan, Middle Tennessee State, Troy State, Marshall, and UAB. I chose UAB over the other schools because UAB was changing their offense to more pass oriented, and (also because of) the people who found and recruited me like John Neil who is currently coaching at Oregon, George Pugh who left to go to Arkansas after I signed but is currently on the staff now at UAB, and Pat Sullivan who actually won the Heisman Trophy."
SCS.com: Since stepping in as the starting QB in the fifth game of the 2002 season, you have been the leader of the UAB offense. Though you have had tremendous success in each of the last three seasons, it seems you have had to battle the injury bug every year. How frustrating is it to have to watch your team from the sideline while you're hurt, and have you changed anything or done anything different during this offseason to hopefully avoid injuries in 2005?
Hackney: "Well I played my redshirt freshman season hurt but was successful, throwing for 2000 yards in 2002. My sophomore season I broke my thumb in the TCU game when we were up by 8 and they were ranked #13 in the nation and missed my homecoming against UGA. In 2003 I only played 6 games and threw for 1700 yards. My junior season was the only year where I played a healthy full season, and I put up numbers that critics didn't think I had in me because I was hurt the previous years. It was painful to watch my team go to battle without their captain, leader, or whatever you want to call me. This offseason going into 2005, I've just been working hard in the weight room and with my recievers trying to build a bond and connection just like Roddy (White) and myself had last season. As you can see, that bond made us the most dangerous pitch and catch relationship in the nation."
SCS.com: After throwing for over 3,600 yards combined in 2002 and 2003, you threw for nearly 3,100 in 2004 alone. You also more than doubled your career TD total last fall. Following the season, you were selected Third Team All-CUSA. More honors like that are sure to follow as the 2005 season nears. What does the recognition mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Hackney: "This type of recognition means alot to myself. I actually thought that I should have been at least 2nd team because my stats were actually better than the 2nd team All C-USA player in Memphis (QB Danny Wimprine), although I knew that Stefon Lefors (Louisville) had the 1st team spot sewed up. It meas a lot to my school and myself because it helps me for the fututre and the school in gettting better players to attend the University. However, I always strive to be the best in everthing I do."
SCS.com: High honors also bring high expectations, however. How do you handle the high expectations others have put on you, and tell about one or two specific things you've worked to improve on in the offseason.
Hackney: "To much is given, much is expected, and I'm the type of player that is not going to shy away from those expectations. Roddy White once told me if you play with good skills, good luck will happen, and that's what I'm trying to do, play with good skills. I'm working hard with my recievers this off season to establish a bond and to know what they are thinking during the course of a game. As you saw last season, Roddy White and myself had a bond and became the most dangerous pitch and catch players in the nation last season."
SCS.com: After wining seven games and making an appearance in last year's Hawaii Bowl, the expectations for UAB football are high once again. Top players like yourself, DE Larry McSwain, KR Reggie Lindsey, RB Dan Burks, and more all returning. What goals have been set for this season, both for yourself personally and for the team as a whole?
Hackney: "Team goals are always first, so I would like to go to the C-USA Championship Game and win, then go to the Liberty Bowl and win. Personal goals, I just want to accomplish the same things I did last season: win a couple of awards and prepare myself after the season for the next level."
SCS.com: You are one of the more unique QBs in NCAA football in that you are really a big man playing the position. Is the listed 6'2" 240 pound measurement on uabsports.com accurate compared to what you will play at this season, and in what ways does your size give you both advantages and disadvantages?
Hackney: "This season I will play at 240, and the advatages are breaking tackles from defenders and being able to move around in the pocket well. With my arm strength, I'm able to throw any type of ball anywhere on the field. I didn't feel like I had disadvatages with my weight, but if there are any, they are running away from people, but I actually showed people I can scramble and get away."
SCS.com: Your head coach Watson Brown has taken UAB football to new heights during his nine years on campus. The Blazers have won six or more games in three of the last five seasons under the direction of Brown, one of the greatest offensive minds in college football. What makes Coach Brown so successful, both on the field and on the recruiting trail?
Hackney: "I think Coach Brown only brings in players that can help the program and not hinder it. He is successful because of his staff and the players that are surrounding him to make and construct his team. Coaches will be the first ones to tell you that the players are responsible for all the success, but two people always get the glory for wins and get the blame for loses, and they are the QB and the head coach."
SCS.com: During your time on campus, you've had the chance to make road trips to places like Florida State, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Hawaii, South Carolina, Georgia, and more. Talk about the differences you face when playing on the road compared to playing at home, and also tell us how much of a difference you think the fans can make during a game.
Hackney: "It's a big difference playing on the road because sometimes you can hardly hear when you've got the ball, and that's good for the team we are playing and not us. However, playing at home on your turf is a different story because no one wants anybody to come on their turf and beat them like they stole something. Our fans can make a big difference when the other team has the ball by being as loud as they can and making it where the other team is confused and can't hear the audible like teams do to us when we are on the road."
SCS.com: You have had some incredible moments while at UAB. Talk about two or three of your favorite memories so far, the ones that will stick with your forever.
Hackney: "My redshirt freshman year I broke 3 records in one game by throwing for the most yards in school history in a single game, putting up the most points in a single game, and accounting for the most TDs in a single game."
SCS.com: One of the toughest parts of being a student-athlete has to be juggling the time it takes to do both sports and school. How much of an emphasis do you put on your school work, and how difficult is it to sometimes get all the things done that you need to in one day?
Hackney: "It is real difficult, but if you take responsibility and be a man, you can make it easier on yourself. You must kill the night life, and as you can see after my senior season, I will be graduating in December of 2005, and you can see that I have been taking care of my business."
SCS.com: In recent years, the topic of paying college athletes has come up more and more. Some people say that since the players make so much money for their school, their conference, and the NCAA, they should be paid. Others disagree, saying that paying college players is not right because that is what professional sports is for. What is your opinion on this subject?
Hackney: "I think that as college athletes, we are putting our lives on the line playing hard and bringing in revenue, so we should get some compensation if it's nothing more than to keep us happy."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the field and one person you admire off the field?
Hackney: "On the field I look up to all NFL QBs and some college QBs because they all have something that I don't, and I have at least one thing that they don't. I also look up to all the players that I play with because this is a collision sport, and there are some brave players that put their lives on the line playing hurt and stuff like that."
SCS.com: If a young player was reading this and aspired to become a successful football player, what advice would you give him?
Hackney: "To stick with it and to place himself around positive people who want to get better as a person and as an athlete. I also would tell him to make the right decisions, watch who he trusts, and just do the right things. It's all on the player himself to make himself better because no one knows you better than yourself."
SCS.com would again like to thank UAB's Darrell Hackney for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Blazers the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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