After nearly two months of organized team activities, there is no question Darcel McBath is more comfortable now than he was upon his arrival to Dove Valley.
When he suited up for his first mini-camp practice with the Broncos on May 1, McBath – like all rookies – went through the typical growing pains associated with venturing into unchartered territory. But now, with OTAs in the rearview mirror and training camp on the horizon, McBath describes his current comfort level with the NFL game as “night and day” compared to his first few practices with the club.
“The first mini-camp we came to after the draft was pretty tough,” McBath said. “But after that we got used to it, and it’s just football. Once you get used to it, you get in the groove of things, you start playing better and you start feeling better about it.”It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that McBath – the team’s second round draft choice (48th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft – is finding his groove with the squad. The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder has a track record for overcoming hurdles and picking up new assignments speedily.
Look no further than his transition from cornerback to safety at Texas Tech University. That move worked out quite nicely for both McBath and the Red Raiders.
After being named the District 9-3A Most Valuable Player by The Dallas Morning News as a senior at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Texas – where he played defensive back, wide receiver and running back - McBath joined Texas Tech as a cornerback.
Right off the bat, he encountered a roadblock. As a redshirt freshman, McBath broke his arm during preseason drills, missing the first six games of the season. Once healthy, McBath took the field for the Red Raiders at cornerback for the final six games of the 2005 season.
Those contests, however, proved to be his final days as a cover corner for Texas Tech. McBath was asked to move from cornerback to safety heading into his sophomore season.
The results? Promising. From the get-go, McBath found success in his new secondary role. Starting all 13 games in 2006, McBath finished with 75 tackles (tops among Big 12 defensive backs) and added a team-high three interceptions – receiving second-team All-Big 12 honors for his efforts.
Numerous accolades followed for McBath. He finished his career with the Red Raiders tied for fifth in program history with 12 interceptions. He recorded at least 70 tackles in each of his final three seasons at Texas Tech, while starting every game during that time period.
McBath’s senior campaign was arguably his strongest. In his final collegiate season in 2008, he tied for first in the nation with seven interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdowns), In turn, he received first-team All-Big 12 honors and was selected as a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.
Now he is attempting to make another successful transition – to the NFL. To try and speed up the learning curve, McBath, like fellow rookie safety David Bruton, is learning the ins and outs of the pro game from two of the league’s most respected defensive backs – Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey. Any time his veteran secondary comrades share tips with the rest of the unit, McBath is an eager listener.
“It’s great, because those guys are willing to teach and help us be better players,” McBath said. “It makes it easier for us — anytime we mess up we don’t have to go to coach (Ed) Donatell, we can go straight to those guys and they can set us straight.”
McBath isn’t quite sure what his role will be this season. Right now he’s focused on earning playing time by making a lasting impression on his teammates and coaches during training camp.
“I’m just trying to make (a role), whatever it may be,” he said. “Hopefully I can compete on special teams and earn the coaches’ trust out there, and then hopefully that leads to bigger things. But I’m just trying to earn a role right now.”
Currently, many players are spending their time away from team headquarters, getting in some rest and relaxation before the season begins. McBath’s primary focus during the month-long layoff has been keeping himself in shape for his rookie run.
“I’m looking forward to it,” McBath said of training camp, which begins on July 31st. “They say it’s tough, but it’s only going to make us better, so I’m looking forward to it.”
– Zach Eisendrath, DenverBroncos.com
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