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No. 5

With Ron Cherubini

Daren Hart — Back in the Game

As a player, Daren Hart may be best known by the moniker “Twin.” The name Hart has, in just a short time frame, become synonymous with toughness, dedication, and overachievement — all good things, as both he and his brother David aptly demonstrated.

For East Carolina fans, who fondly recall the hard-nosed exploits of the brothers from Winston-Salem, the contributions the Hart twins made to the fabric of Pirate football need no elaboration.

But to discover each as an individual reveals a new set of terms by which to define them.

For Daren Hart, the taller one as he likes to point out, those words might be soft-spoken, fair, diligent, involved, determined, attentive, discerning, and the list goes on.

The terms read like a recipe, and to an extent they are. They are the makings of what looks to be a sure bet for a career collegiate football coach.

Today, Daren Hart, at 27 years old, is in his fourth year of coaching and his second at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro — currently ranked 19th in the nation. He is the defensive backs position coach and loves every minute of the small bucks, long hours post.

“I started a career at First Union in banking,” Hart said. “I got lost there. I was having a sort of a withdrawal of not being part of a football team. I had to get out, so I went into teaching and coaching at West Charlotte (high school) and was part of a team again.

“I do it because I love the game and this gave me an opportunity to be back in the game.”

His draw to coaching hits on all of those things that endeared him to the Pirate faithful as a player.

As a player, he was dependable, aggressive, and always well prepared. And as a coach, he is the same, driven by the notion that he was not big enough, not fast enough to play big-time college football and that he can use his experiences and his ability to connect with kids and convince them they can be more then they ever dreamed as players.

“I really enjoy helping kids go further than I did,” Hart said. “You know, I never ran below a 4.63 (in the 40). I’m only 5-8¼ tall…and I did it. So I know these kids who are 6-0, 6-2, and running a 4.3-4.4 forty can do it and I enjoy helping them find that ability.”

Hart’s principal assets were a whole lot of heart and a willingness to put in hours of preparation.

“First, I tell them to trust your instincts,” he said. “That’s one thing I did as a freshman. Young guys are afraid to make mistakes. It’s not like they can’t play — they just don’t trust their instincts. When you trust your instincts, you start to expect to make plays and it grows from there.

"Everything slows down when you become more experienced. The only difference between the levels — pros, college, high school — is the speed of the game.”

For Hart, it was film study that was the equalizer on the field. His preparation was impeccable, allowing him to compensate for being a half-step slow and a few inches short.

The extra homework showed, perhaps most glowingly, in Miami in 1996. The Pirates traveled down for the legendary Orange Bowl and pounded the Hurricanes, becoming one of just three teams to beat Miami at home in a decade.

It was a one-side battle no ECU fan will soon forget and Hart had a major influence on the outcome — he had an interception, a sack, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in a game that he considers maybe his best-ever.

Hart hovers over Virginia Tech quarterback Jim Druckenmiller.
Photo: ECU SID

As exciting as it was for him as a player, his biggest Miami memory might very well reveal that he was destined to be a coach.

“You know, a bunch of us went to the Miami game when they (ECU and Miami) played in Raleigh,” he said, referring to the game two years ago. “Me, my brother, Scott Richards, Larry Shannon, a bunch of us were there and Miami was up big at halftime.

"So, we bum-rushed past Security and we started going off on the players and low and behold, they came back and they beat Miami. And you know what? We were all right down there bringing down the goal posts. Some of the players even thanked us.”

To coach, it seems, is the right place for Hart.

“I think college coaching is challenging,” he said. “And the first thing you learn about college is recruiting. If you are good at it, you will be a good college coach. The other thing is breaking down film… preparation. Getting players to understand how important it is to watch the film and to understand what you are watching.”

On the field, his method is to be a players’ coach.

“My philosophy is to be aggressive and, for the most part, the kids are buying into it. They are getting there. You don’t want to have to teach effort,” he said. “Good things happen to those who run to the ball. I want them to trust themselves and run to the ball.

"My relationship with my players, from position players all the way down to the whole team, is to be a players' coach type. I am a young coach and can relate to these guys on a level that the other coaches can't.

“It really helps as long as you don’t get too close to them outside of football. It helps me out when I can show them on tape what I did or my brother. I am not asking them to do anything I didn’t do. If you can show it can be done by an undersized, slower player, they believe they can do it and do it at an even better level.”

Perhaps — but maybe Hart is selling himself a little short. Maybe he’s forgetting the games when he was covering the likes of Antonio Freeman (Va. Tech) and Marvin Harrison (Syracuse) or getting the jump on Peyton Manning (Tenn.), Gus Frerotte (Tulsa), or Donovan McNabb (Syracuse).

“OK,” he recollected. “I know they had great careers. I remember Antonio Freeman, he was our initiation to college football. And Marvin Harrison, he was good, though he didn’t like to get hit. Yeah, and I remember laying a good lick on Peyton and chasing McNabb around.

“But honestly, I guess it really didn’t hit me because I always just thought I was making the plays I was supposed to make. I always felt after a play that, ‘hey, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ I always believed that I was supposed to be in college, that I could play. I did the little things that made it possible.”

To Hart, the football transcends the game itself. And as many coaches before him and many after have and will say, football is a microcosm of life. For Hart, it’s no different.

Hart (22) and teammate Morris Foreman (7) pursue the ball against Tulsa.
Photo: ECU SID

“Life— you never quit no matter how far you’re down,” he preaches to his players, “Each play, each day should be like its your last. If you lose a job, a family member or a friend, it’s part of the ebb and flow of life. And it’s like that in a game. You try not to get too high when you are up or too low when you are down. Everything has a way of leveling out.”

And he adds his own little Daren Hart twist:

“If you cheat football, it will make you cry. And that is the same thing in life. So the lesson is, don’t cheat.”

Though he is now Daren Hart, not “one of the Hart twins,” he and his brother David are still very dependent on one another. Only now, it is more emotional.

“I’m very proud of my brother and what we accomplished at ECU,” he said. “And I know he is proud of me.”

 And today, Daren Hart looks over the practice field at his own players, looking for the proper mix of talent, heart, and desire.

Run to the ball…run to the ball and good things will happen.

For Daren Hart, it sure is good to be back in the game again.

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Daren Hart





Years at ECU:


Position/Jersey No.

Strong Safety/ No. 22


Winston-Salem, NC

Currently Resides:

Greensboro, NC


Defensive Backs Coach at North Carolina A&T

ECU Degree(s)
  • BS Exercise and Sports Science

Marital Status:


Significant Other:





“(Coach Connors) instilled the ‘David vs. Goliath’ mentality in us. He really made us believe. Personally, he changed my life. He was the heart and soul for us old players. To watch him leave and all that, it really struck the heart of us old players. We really felt he was the rock of ECU.”



1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“I know Garrard and Pernell. They are both students of the game and they’ve learned how to watch film, how to dissect the opponent and it makes them better players.”

2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“I miss the family atmosphere. The relationships.”

3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“The new cafeteria. And the Student Store area was pretty nice. When we were freshman we went there to see who was there.”

4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“214 Scott Hall. Morris Foreman, EJ Gunthrope, Mitchell Galloway, Marcus Crandell were all in my suite. We had the happening suite. We were the all time leaders in intramural basketball. I remember lots of card games and staying up late and reminiscing. I remember, we all made a pact that we would all stay together and be successful group at ECU. And, we became the winningest class to be there.”

5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“No doubt, my game against Miami in the Orange Bowl in 1996.  I made USA Today player of the week. I had a quarterback sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a stripped ball. I remember coming off the field and my brother saying, ‘Daren, you are having a hell of a ballgame.’”

6. Most disliked opponent?

“Never got a hold of Virginia Tech…I disliked everyone we played, but they were always the toughest, by far.”

7. Athletic Influences?

“Well, I like overachievers like Sam Mills. He was undersized and they said he couldn’t make it in the NFL. We probably were the shortest two safeties in the country and we made it.”

8. Favorite coach?

“Coach Connors was my favorite, we go hand and hand and then also Coach Web, my position coach. With coach Connors, here again, a little guy with a big heart who doesn’t take junk from nobody.”

9. Best Lockerroom Story

During my time, the defensive guys were a lot more vocal than the offense. I remember our breakdown was ‘No Excuses!’ We had a thing that when anyone heard a guy making an excuse, someone would cut him off and say, ‘1-2-3…’ We would count to three if anyone was making an excuse and that guy would say, ‘No Excuses!’ We lived by that creed. Eventually, people stopped making excuses and took care of their job.”

10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“We mostly hung out at the dorm and BW-3s on Tuesday’s. That was pretty much our deal. Later on, we started going to the Max.”


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02/23/2007 02:07:33 PM

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