Name: Darrell Stuckey
NFL games played: 89
Games played for the Chargers: 89
For Darrell Stuckey, football was nothing more than a pipe dream growing up. Stuckey suffered from seizures as a young child - he had his last one at age 5, but he wasn’t cleared by doctors to take part in any contact sports until he was 9 years old.
Once Stuckey was medically cleared, he set about to make up for lost time. Stuckey earned varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track in High School, earned All-State honors in baseball, and was an All-State DB as a Senior in football. He was a natural athlete with the world at his feet, but things hadn’t gone at all smoothly for Stuckey off the field.
His parents divorced when Stuckey was four, and his mother (who Stuckey and his siblings lived with) had re-married. When Stuckey was 17, his stepfather was arrested and convicted for sexually assaulting one of Stuckey’s younger siblings.
Stuckey had just accepted a scholarship to the University of Kansas, but this wasn’t a time for celebration. Far from it. Stuckey’s stepfather was thankfully removed from the house, but that meant his mother was the only one earning a salary in the house, and her telemarketing job wouldn’t make enough money to provide for the six children in her care. As the oldest child, Stuckey had to step up.
He got a job as a waiter, leaving football practice early every day to go and work until 11 PM. For a year, Stuckey’s life was little more than school, football practice, work, and sleep, before doing it all again the next day. The experience meant that for Stuckey, “my heart was hardened toward people but still open to learning what God was teaching me. I learned what it means to be a man, to be responsible, accountable and reliable.”
That cycle ended when Stuckey went to college, but that doesn’t mean he had any more free time than he did in High School. His Head Coach at Kansas pondered that “When he's about 35, 40," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said, "he's gonna smoke somebody in a governor's race." The Associate Media Relations Director said “he’s probably involved in too many things. Holy cow, when do you breathe? He’s involved in everything.”
To be honest, “involved in everything” is an understatement. It’s impossible to list everything Stuckey did in college here because it’d turn into a bullet point list that you’d only get a third of the way down in the time it takes for Patrick Mahomes to throw 50 TDs (so Week 3 of the NFL season).
Here’s the skinny on Stuckey. He was a student senator (although doesn’t see himself as a politician in the future). He volunteered weekly with the Kansas Special Olympics. He was the treasurer of his fraternity. The University of Kansas’ own website lists Stuckey as a motivational speaker. How many college students are there that also moonlight in motivational speaking?
One of the reasons Stuckey was able to get so much done in college is that he didn’t go out to bars or go partying. That didn’t stop him being the driving force behind a policy that meant all bars in Lawrence (the sixth largest state in Kansas) would be legally required to give free soft drinks or water to designated drivers to help people get home safely.
He was also a special player for Kansas. He was the only Kansas player to be a First Team All-Big 12 selection in his Junior Year, and in his Senior Year was a Thorpe Award (the best DB in college) semi-finalist, as well as being named the Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year.
Stuckey was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college, earning a degree in Communication Studies, choosing Communication Studies because he had a stutter that he wanted to overcome.
Most people actively do all they can to avoid having their weaknesses exposed. Stuckey purposefully bought it to the forefront.
Most draft prospects are focused on nothing but themselves as the NFL Draft approaches. Stuckey proposed to his girlfriend the week of the draft because he didn’t want the week to solely be about him.
Darrell Stuckey is a special human being. Seriously.
He was drafted in the fourth round by the Chargers of the 2010 NFL Draft but never panned out as a defensive prospect. For a few years, Chargers fans would clamor for Stuckey to get more snaps on defense as he always seemed to produce when on the field - and certainly had the athleticism for it - but the more he did play on defense, the less anyone wanted to see it.
At this point, Stuckey has zero defensive value. He went from 181 defensive snaps in 2014 to 70 in 2015 and just 34 in 2016, per RotoWorld. However, it’s interesting to note that despite people saying Stuckey saw less playing time on Special Teams, the opposite is actually true - Stuckey had 368 Special Teams snaps last year, the highest in his career.
Most people at this point seem to be in favor of getting rid of Stuckey this offseason, but I’m on the other side of the fence. I don’t think his ST production dipped as much as people think it did last year - sure, there was a little dip, but he was still the best ST player the Chargers had, and have. He’s the leader of that unit, and it was only two years ago that he was a Pro Bowler for his ST work.
I feel as if people see Stuckey’s age (he’s 30 years old) and his contract (he’s due to make $3.3m this year) and use that to cloud their judgment on his play. If we’re just talking on the field, there’s not another player on this team who’s anywhere near as good on Special Teams as Stuckey is.
Admittedly, that $3.3m contract is far too high, and that’s a genuine reason to cut ties with Stuckey. If he’s unwilling to take a pay cut, he should be out the door. However, if he’d agree to a pay cut, there is absolutely zero reason to cut him and keep around somebody like Nick Dzubnar. Dzubnar is lauded for his Special Teams play, but isn’t even close to being at Stuckey’s level of play on that unit, and offers just as little defensive value as Stuckey.
This is now a crowded roster, and if the team can’t find room for a pure ST player on the 53, that’s understandable. I have a hard time seeing where you could cut a player to make room for Stuckey. However, if the team is keeping someone around just for the ST value, the contract is the only reason that Stuckey shouldn’t be the choice there.
Chargers fans are well aware of what happens to a team with a terrible ST unit. This is a team that had problems with their kicking game last year, had a punter who managed to send one just 17 yards, and hasn't had a decent kick/punt return (not a returner, just a single solitary return) in what feels like forever. Don’t mess up the only good part of Special Teams.