Darren Fells, who hasn’t played football since his Fullerton High days, hopes to make Seattle Seahawks roster.
SAN DIEGO – As Darren Fells stepped onto the field at Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday with the Seattle Seahawks, he couldn’t help but think about the road he’s traveled to get there.
Despite not playing in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers because of a groin injury, the 27-year-old rookie tight end is still making history as the only UC Irvine graduate to have signed with an NFL franchise.
Position: tight end
Career at UC Irvine
A native of Fullerton, Fells played basketball at UC Irvine. Not football.
In fact, the Anteaters don’t even have a football team. Fells played tight end and defensive end at Fullerton High, but ultimately chose basketball. And after a productive playing career at the school and four years playing professional basketball in places such as Belgium, Finland, Mexico and France, Fells had a nagging feeling that something was missing in his life.
What was missing, he discovered, was football.
Fells’ brother Daniel, a tight end for the New England Patriots, got him in touch with his agent, who sent him out to Los Angeles to start training. From there, it was just a matter of throwing Fells’ name out there.
And when the Seahawks came calling, Fells brought his A game.
Fells wowed Seahawks coaches at a Pro Day in March, running routes so well that they were amazed he hadn’t played any college football. He made such an impact that he was offered a contract the same day.
While Fells does admit that the transition from basketball to football – the NFL in particular – has been difficult physically, he says he’s feeling more comfortable as training camp goes on and as his conditioning improves.
He’s also enjoying playing with and learning from quarterback Russell Wilson, whom he had been looking forward to working with, soaking up as much information from him as possible.
“Russell has been really great and very helpful,” Fells said. “He’s always there to answer any questions and anything I need.”
So in the tradition of former-college-basketball-players-turned-tight-ends such as San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, Fells is looking to leave his own imprint on the game and on his team.
He said that while he can only hope to achieve the same success on the field, he knows that the road ahead is not going to be an easy one.
But Fells said he’s up to the challenge.
“This whole experience has been great, but it’s also just been surreal,” Fells said. “Sometimes I find myself still trying to figure out how I got here.”