The hiring of new Enterprise coach Rick Darlington has earned the school praise from a number of areas, including former Darlington players.
Chandler Cox is currently a star fullback at Auburn but before he became a helmet-rattling blocker and goal line specialist for the Tigers, he was an All-American fullback in Darlington’s “single wing” offense.
After Darlington’s hire, Cox took to his official Twitter to praise the hire and the man that Darlington is, and this week he spoke exclusively to The Sun about the impact that the new Enterprise coach had on his life and career.
“People always ask me who had the most impact on my life and I always say Coach Darlington,” Cox said. “He is one of the most influential people in my life. Just the way he coached me and pushed me was so big in my life.
“He’s a very old school and touch coach, and he pushed me to my limits.”
Cox said that Darlington saw potential in him and would never let him do things the easy way.
“He knew how great I could be and wouldn’t let me get off easy with anything that I did,” Cox said. “A lot of coaches preach that they want their players to be good football players but even better men. Coach Darlington actually lived up to that.
“He was able to make me a better person, not just a good football player.”
Cox said that Darlington’s focus on his player’s lives off the field meant as much as what went on on the field. He said that Darlington enacted a “Tie Tuesday” for the team that saw his players wear ties to school every Tuesday as well as forcing his team to sit in the front row of all their classes.
“We also went around in the community and did things like pick up trash,” Cox said. “Just small things like that made such a huge difference on our team.”
Darlington’s coaching style certainly paid off as Apopka made it to three state championship games – winning two of them – during Cox’s high school career, and personally Cox rushed for nearly 3,000 yards with more than 20 touchdowns on his way to earning a scholarship to play at Auburn.
Cox said that playing in the “single wing” offense was some of the most fun he’s had playing football.
“It was just fun,” Cox excitedly said of the offense. “A lot of teams knew exactly what we were going to run but it didn’t matter. We ran the same play over and over again, but they couldn’t stop us.
“Our foundation as a team was that we were going to be more physical than the other team and we expected to win. We came out every single week with the expectation that we were going to win and he preached that.”
Cox said that growing up in Apopka, kids his age and younger dreamed of playing for Darlington and the Apopka Blue Darters.
“It was kind of like a dream for me to play for him at Apopka,” Cox said. “That’s how it was there, from the time you’re in Pop Warner and into middle school that’s your goal, to play for Coach Darlington.
“I knew everything about (the offense) and him and I was just excited to be a part of it, because I knew of the success he had and the type of players he coached. It was an amazing place to be.”
That culture is something that Enterprise fans and students can expect with Darlington at the helm but also he’ll prepare his players for life, according to Cox.
“(Fans) can expect him to change the lives of those kids on the field but most importantly, off the field in preparing them for college and the real world,” Cox said. “He’ll have kids that play college football or join the military or go into their careers, and he’ll prepare them for that.”
As far as on the field, Cox says success will come there, too, and it will come from doing all the “little things.”
“He preaches about doing the small things,” Cox said. “If you do the small things right then the rest of it will take care of itself, and you’ll win games.”
Cox reiterated that Enterprise hit a grand slam in the hiring of Darlington.
“Enterprise couldn’t have made a better hire,” Cox emphasized. “He’s perfect for that job. I know that’s a really big football program down there and he loves that small town life. He’s going to change those kid’s lives and really change that football program for the better.”