Leading by example

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On Wednesday afternoon, Jacksonville Jaguars safety Donovin Darius will write yet another chapter in his already well-written career in the NFL.

Darius has been invited to speak at the NFL's annual Player Development Meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida. In fact, he was personally invited from Commissioner Roger Goodell's office and was the only NFL player who will be in attendance.

"I am headed down to this meeting on Tuesday and I am really looking forward to it, because I like to see how the player development directors affect the lives of the players," said Darius. "To be able to talk to them and give them some of the vision that God has placed in my heart about how we can better serve the men, that is a great privilege."

Darius is also one of six active players who were courted by Commissioner Goodell to form the NFL's Player Advisory Committee. Darius joined NFL Players Association President Troy Vincent, Jeff Saturday, Tony Richardson, Takeo Spikes and James Thrash.

"It means a lot, first of all, to be a part of the Player Advisory Committee," he remarked. "It's a great honor. I understand what our role is, that it's one of leadership, accountability and one of vision. Just to be a representative of the Jaguars and as a player, to have so much influence in the league and work directly with the Commissioner is great."

When Commissioner Goodell formed the committee, the group's first order of business was to talk about his new player conduct policy. The committee met in New York at the league office with Commissioner Goodell to discuss how the implementation of the policy would affect the NFL.

"Basically the policy is a fair one. In a nutshell, it brings accountability back to the player," remarked Darius. "There are rules set in place, but like anything else, like men, we have choices and consequences to those actions. If those rules are set into place, then we have a decision to make.

"Are we perfect? No, but given the right situation and the right resources, we can make better choices as men. We make ourselves more positive people and we can continue to improve the value of this game."

Now in his 10th year in the NFL after being drafted by the Jaguars in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft along with Fred Taylor, Darius joins Taylor as two of the longest-tenured players on the team. Darius also has the distinction of not only serving as the Vice President of the Players Association, but he is also the Jaguars' NFL Player Representative. He has served in that role for the past three years.

"I know I keep saying it's an honor and a privilege, but the Bible says, 'To whom much is given, much is required.' I have been given a whole lot of responsibility and it's required of me to give back," Darius said of serving as the team representative.

"I constantly pray for the men and seek out new ways to improve their lifestyles, their time on and off the field, their salaries and their working conditions. So when I look at it, I feel blessed to have an intricate part of the development of this league and the men that surround it. I want to look back after I finish playing and see what I did, not only on the field, but what I did off the field to make this a better game. Being a rep and the vice president of the Players Union has afforded me the opportunity to do many things."

Darius knows that each year, he will have about 15 to 20 new faces that he will have to teach the ways of the NFL. But with each new rookie class, he says that the young players have become more receptive to the education.

"It's always increasing," said Darius on the education of the players. "It's not just because of what I'm doing, but also because of what the league is doing as a whole. My role is to provide the players with the resources and help them with my experiences and guidance in what they will encounter and view in life. The young guys and the old guys come up to me, but more than that, I want to come up to them. I want to equip them with the things that will make them successful."

As the common cliché is written – 'football is a young man's game,' and Darius knows that after a decade in the NFL, he doesn't have much longer to play. But for 10 years, he has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge on and off the field to help him in his future endeavors.

"I want the rookies to understand that this game and playing on this level is a privilege and not a right. With that they have been blessed with tremendous talent, but it comes with a cost. One thing I tell them is that with the average career lasting only three years, they need to maximize and do everything that they can to make the most of it while they can," remarked Darius.

At the start of the 2008 year, the Presidency of the Players Association will most likely be vacant with Vincent's impending retirement and Darius has already started his campaign to lead the PA into the future. A future that has thrived under Vincent's current tenure and that would not miss a step with Darius in the fold.

"It's been on my heart next year when the President position opens up. With every position of leadership come a lot of attacks, but at the same time, if that is a calling for you, then you will walk into that position fully equipped with good people around you. Troy has done a tremendous job with his position as president. He has evolved the league and the union under his direction and Gene Upshaw. For me I look at it as an opportunity, when that time comes, I'll look at it. But for now my roles as the Vice President of the union, the Jaguars Players' Rep and a member of the NFL's Player Advisory Committee, gives me a lot of incentive and ammunition to go forward and make changes to educate the men here locally in Jacksonville."

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