Sunday, August 29, 2010

Safety net: Darrell Stuckey is gone from the Jayhawks’ defensive secondary, but his influence lives on

Phillip Strozier, left, and  Olaitan Oguntodu are two of the most experienced members of Kansas University’s safety corps, which still bears the imprint of departed Darrell Stuckey.

Phillip Strozier, left, and Olaitan Oguntodu are two of the most experienced members of Kansas University’s safety corps, which still bears the imprint of departed Darrell Stuckey.


When Phillip Strozier speaks, his words evoke a sense of direction, clarity and professionalism.

This comes naturally now for the Kansas University senior safety. Eye contact accompanies the conversation, which hints at a mentor figure as a big reason for the way Strozier looks at life on and off the football field.

Darrell Stuckey has left quite an impact on members of the football program.

“Most importantly, he taught us how to lead by example,” Strozier said of departed safety Stuckey, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers and may start in his rookie season. “There’s nothing wrong with being a great player on the field and a great person off the field, character-wise. That’s what he taught us the most.”

Strozier is applying the wisdom left behind by Stuckey, a former All-Big 12 first-team selection and regular contributor in the community.

The direction: Strozier graduated with a degree in business marketing in May. He’d like to create advertising commercials.

The clarity: Strozier seems to be clear about his role as a senior leader in the secondary. Sure, it’s a new scheme, new safeties coach, new defensive coordinator, new head coach, new everything. But the Jayhawks, who ranked 96th out of 120 Div. I teams in pass defense last year, were in need of some kind of change.

The professionalism: Strozier often began his responses earlier this month at KU’s annual media day with “yes sir/no sir,” something not often heard in that type of setting. The way he articulated his sentences suggested it wasn’t just a gimmick.

These attributes can’t all be traced back to Stuckey. But the inspiring imprint he left on the program is obvious.

“There’s nothing wrong with being an outstanding citizen,” Strozier said. “We’re all here to be great football players. But we’re all here to be good students and good men, too.”

Strozier’s fellow safeties have been affected in a positive way by Stuckey as well.

• Red-shirt freshman Prinz Kande said Stuckey went out of his way to visit him after practice to break down film last season.

“When I came up, he was like a big brother to me,” Kande said. “He took me under his wing and showed me the basics.”

The basics?

“Just being smart,” Kande said. “Knowing what to do before the offense even snaps the ball. He was gifted. He was a pretty good hitter, too. I tried to watch his technique.”

• Sophomore Lubbock Smith said he instantly bonded with Stuckey because they were both men of faith.

“I learned a lot of leadership skills from Stuckey,” Smith said. “On the field, we always talked to each other. He gave me insight on how to see the quarterback drop and certain assignments that I needed to see so I could get better.”

• Safeties coach Rombert Wimberly, in his first year at KU after coming to Lawrence from Buffalo with head coach Turner Gill, never coached Stuckey. But he met him several times. All it took was a little conversation.

“He’s a very mature young man,” Wimberly said of Stuckey. “A young man that, to have the success that he has, is very humble, wants to see others do well. That plays a part in my group because they saw that for four years ... We’re trying to reinforce that — a family atmosphere and helping each other out. I think his impact was tremendous.”

Smith (free safety) and Olaitan Oguntodu (strong safety) are listed as the starters on KU’s latest depth chart. Strozier is listed as Smith’s backup, while Kande is listed as Oguntodu’s backup. Freshman Keeston Terry recently switched to safety from wide receiver and also will compete for snaps.


KGphoto 7 years, 9 months ago

Boo hoo. Why don't you make yourself useful and write your own column. You can call it...

"Everything I hate"

It will be an autobiographical foray. An endless journey.

jaymar74 7 years, 9 months ago

mulaza, go to your Mizzou site and read about your teams DUI's and rape, no crickets in Columbia

Dan Harris 7 years, 9 months ago

Its always good to get your cup of negativity in MU

troutsee 7 years, 9 months ago

Someone said earlier that we were going to shock the world this year and we might. Consider this: last year's team underachieved. Reesing had an off year. I think Pick can be better than Reesing. Meier, uncharacterisically, had some key muffs and a fumble that probably cost us the NU game. The TT game was a comedy of errors and we should have never lost that game or the CU game. If Reesing would have used the slide rather than colliding with tacklers, we would have won the KSU game as well. I know, I know....could have and should haves and every team has them. Still, I feel that many of the players were frozen by fear of making mistakes last year and the turnover margin was not in our favor. I really feel that we will have a winning record this year. Will us having a winning record shock the world, probably not. But, a Big 12 North Championship would shock the world and that is certainly possible. I am scared to death of the GT game and their wishbone attack. How we do in the first two games will tell us a lot about this team..

KU_FanSince75 7 years, 9 months ago

Troutsee--Very well said. I agree with you.

Here is the quote that caught my attention right away-- "We're all here to be great football players. But we're all here to be good students and good men, too." ---Phillip Strozier

Ummm---I wonder if Brandon Rush can learn something from that quote!

hawk316 7 years, 9 months ago

How blessed were we to have Darrell Stuckey in our football program? What a difference maker! It just goes to show you the positive impact a person can have on others...the power of one (or in his case, the power of two since he was a man of faith). :-)

Rivethead 7 years, 9 months ago

Doesn't that discount the Holy Trinity?

Dirk Medema 7 years, 9 months ago

"The Godhead 3 in 1", so it still works.

Omari Miller 7 years, 9 months ago

@hawk316 - Yes. Thanks for the the link. Excellent article. And I have no problem with agreeing with the consultant quoted there who stated: "America needs Kansas to win."

In that same vein, former KU player Micah Brown is doing an excellent job with The Gridiron. The latest daily trailer seems to be a great reflection of the new culture at the program.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 9 months ago

Good Link. Thanks, and it is going to be great to watch Micah's work thru this year, and hopefully beyond.

KU_FanSince75 7 years, 9 months ago

hawk316-- That was a great read! Thanks for the link. This makes me more anxious and excited for the season to begin. Rock Chalk!

KU_FanSince75 7 years, 9 months ago

hawk316-- That was a great read! Thanks for the link. This makes me more anxious and excited for the season to begin. Rock Chalk!

KU_FanSince75 7 years, 9 months ago

BTW--- Hawk316--- J. Brady McCollough also, writes for the Wichita Eagle and this same article was in Saturday's College Preview section. Thanks, just the same!

jayhawkintx73 7 years, 9 months ago

There are two plays by Stuckey that stick out in my mind. The first was when he chased the La Tech running back down before he reached the endzone and KU's defense held from there. The second was when he chased down Chase Daniel at Arrowhead in 2008, caused the fumble, then recovered it. Ok, there are more than two plays. The second interception in that game when he made a spectacular interception with a play underneath the receiver. There is no doubt that was the best college football game I have ever watched, and Stuckey was the player of that game.

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