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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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
"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
“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
“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,
Run to the ball…run to the ball and good things
For Daren Hart, it sure is good to be back in the
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