Photo: Pictured is 2016 Gadsden City graduate Darnell Mooney competing in a 2015 high school football game. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Darnell Mooney is taking his gridiron skills to the Windy City.
The 2016 Gadsden City High School graduate recently was taken by Chicago in the fifth round of the 2020 National Football League draft. The Bears obtained the pick in a trade with Philadelphia.
Although he appreciated the fact that he was one of only 255 players taken in the draft, Mooney said that his being picked was only the first step of a long process of getting the opportunity to play on fall Sundays at Soldier Field.
“I’m honored to be one of those guys, but I’ve still got a chip on my shoulder with something to prove,” he said. “I have higher plans than just getting drafted. I’m looking forward to getting in there and doing my thing.”
In his four years at Tulane, Mooney caught 154 passes for 2,572 yards and 19 touchdowns. His best statistical season was his junior year as he totaled 48 receptions for 993 yards with eight touchdowns. Mooney led the Green Wave in receiving yards the past two seasons.
Mooney pointed to the summer following his high school graduation as when he set the goal of one day competing in the NFL.
“I was unable to go to Tulane for summer workouts and was pretty much by myself, and I had a lot of growth mentally. I made the decision to play [football] after college, because I knew that I could do it.”
Chicago was not the only organization interested in draf-ting Mooney, as he spoke to several teams prior to and during the NFL draft in late April.
“It was just a case of which teams had you rated in what position on the board,” he said. “It was just a situation of wondering where everybody had you on their draft charts and what guys they were planning to take. But I’m with the Chicago Bears, and I’m happy to be there.”
Mooney, who graduated Tulane with a degree in applied computing, has been in frequent contact with Bears head coach Matt Nagy and several assistant coaches.
“They expect high things out of me, but we learned a lot of plays in college that were similar to NFL schemes, so I’m pretty sure that I won’t have a hard time learning the playbook. But at the end of the day, I have to do my job, regardless of who else in on the roster.”
Mooney had 37 receptions for 697 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior year of 2015 at GCHS. He was named to the ASWA All-State first team and the All-Messenger first team following the season. As a junior, he helped the 2014 Titans go 10-3 and reach the semifinal round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
“Darnell was a really good athlete, a hard worker and a fierce competitor,” said Gadsden City head football coach Ali Smith, who was the team’s defensive coordinator when Mooney played for the Titans. “Darnell always considered himself a basketball guy, and every now and then he would say he was leaving the program, but he would always show back up and still be the best player of the team. He’s also a really good kid. Going into Darnell’s junior year, one of the Tulane coaches was singing Darnell’s praises about what an exceptional leader he was and how some of the older players were going to him for advice. Darnell’s very serious about how he goes about his business. I think he is walking into the perfect situation in Chicago and has a great opportunity.”
This article was supplemented by the Chicago Sun-Times