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Orleans Darkwa’s journey from undrafted free agent to breakout game

Giants
Giants

New York Giants running back Orleans Darkwa had his breakout game last week.

He ran for a career high 117 yards on 21 carries in the Giants’ first win of the season over the Denver Broncos. Darkwa said he felt a “good sore” after the game. Although he has a history of injury and questions about his durability, Darkwa said he was ready to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

“I’m doing everything, lifting weights,” Darkwa said in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “That’s a credit to (former Giants running back) Rashad (Jennings). When he was here, he said to invest in your body.”

Darkwa’s journey to the spotlight was an arduous one.

He played collegiately at Tulane, where he holds the school record for touchdowns (39) and most rushing yards by a freshman (925). After going undrafted in 2014, Darkwa thought he was going to sign with the Tennessee Titans. Instead, he signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Darkwa played in four games for the Dolphins before being waived. He was subsequently signed to the Dolphins’ practice squad before the Giants signed him in Week 11. Darkwa’s tenure with the Giants before this season was marred by injury.

He was hampered by leg issues in 2015 and was placed on injured reserve last season after playing in 10 games with two starts. Darkwa had surgery to repair fractures in his leg, including the installation of a metal plate to help with healing.

These durability concerns, as well as some questionable decisions by the coaching staff, kept Darkwa from shining.

The team named Paul Perkins the starter after releasing Jennings but he severely underperformed. Darkwa showed flashes of brilliance when he did carry the ball but didn’t get enough touches, much to the chagrin of Giants fans. After Perkins was sidelined with a rib injury, Darkwa was finally given his chance to shine and took full advantage of it.

The 117 yards Darkwa gained against the Broncos surpasses his season total from 2016 (111). He surpassed Perkins’ season total (61 yards on 32 carries in four games) by 56 yards with 12 fewer carries. Darkwa, whose previous career high was 69 yards, averaged 5.7 yards per carry against the Broncos. The Broncos came into the game with the NFL’s top ranked defense.

“It’s a blessing that I’ve had the opportunity to go out there, especially on a big stage like that. The coaches trusted me to get the job done,” Darkwa said. “There were a lot of times I didn’t even get touched until the third level.”

Darkwa also gave credit the offensive line, who were in their fifth configuration in six games because of injuries.

He said that he received 157 text messages from friends, family, former teammates and coaches after last week’s win. Darkwa knows where he came from and now that he has an opportunity to be the Giants’ feature back, he’s going to make the most of it.

“At the end of the day, I was an undrafted kid out of Tulane who didn’t even get a call until the (last) day of the draft,” he said. “I’ve come a long way. But I’ve got bigger goals personally and big goals for this team. I’m nowhere near where I want to be.”

– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for cover32 and covers the NFL and New York Giants. Please like and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.


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