There’s a big chip on Christian Darrisaw’s shoulder. On the surface, his infectious smile will reveal a deep love and appreciation for football; but there’s something else motivating him.
Darrisaw is deep in the pre-draft process after three successful seasons as a starting offensive tackle at Virginia Tech. Before he was a top-ranked tackle, Darrisaw was a two-star recruit out of Riverdale Baptist High School. The private school nestled in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, isn’t particularly known for fostering NFL talent. Darrisaw follows former running back Olandis Gary (1999-2003) and defensive tackle Travis Ivey (2010) as he’s on the cusp of his NFL career. There’s a lot of excitement, particularly around Virginia Tech’s Pro Day on Friday. It was the first time Darrisaw got to perform in a shared setting with teammates and NFL personnel. He’s been recovering from core surgery and only participated in position drills.
When a player gets this far into the process, there isn’t much left to show. However, it was important for Darrisaw to have a productive day. Since he entered the 2021 NFL Draft as a junior, he didn’t have the option of competing in the Senior Bowl; and with the cancelation of the annual NFL Scouting Combine, Darrisaw had one more opportunity to cement himself as the top prospect in his respective position. He admitted it was a little weird, to be measured strictly based on numbers. There was no other factor built-in; evaluators aren’t particularly focused on a player’s story during Pro Days, that’s what interviews are for. After spending months rehabbing and training at the EXOS facility in Florida, Darrisaw was finally able to show off his work and give more insight into his development from a true-freshman starting tackle to the consensus OT2 on TDN’s draft board.
For as happy as Darrisaw was with his output Friday, he quickly humbled himself.
“I just know I can’t get too big-headed,” he said. “I gotta stay level-headed. I know the best is yet to come, for sure. I just got to keep working hard and everything will play out.”
Darrisaw checks all the boxes NFL teams are looking for in a reliable starting tackle. There has been interest in Darrisaw playing on the left and right. In multiple discussions with league personnel, Darrisaw was solidified as a left tackle but would likely develop as a right tackle for his first few years in the league. He has all of the qualities to become an asset to the right team, and the one knock against him—that really isn’t a negative but more so an observation—has been his functional strength. Funny enough, it’s his strength that head coach Justin Fuente notes as Darrisaw’s biggest improvement; a couple of years in the NFL and Darrisaw will become even stronger. In his own eyes, everything about his game has continuously improved, building year after year.
“I feel like I developed a lot around my whole game. The footwork in the run game and pass protection kept getting better each year,” Darrisaw said. “This past season, with COVID and everything, talking with [offensive line] coach [Vance] Vice, watching film, and just working out with a couple of my O-line buddies, it took my game to the next level and it showed.”
Darrisaw gave up zero sacks last season. He helped open up the field for running back Khalil Herbert, trusting Herbert to burst through the open lanes. It all comes back to trust. Darrisaw was trusted with a starting role on the offensive line as a green under-recruit tackle, always confident in his abilities and continuously studying the game. He’s taken bits and pieces from elite tackles at the professional level, watching a lot of Trent Williams recently and studying what it takes to be successful in the NFL. Darrisaw’s confidence stems from his preparation and one team will reap the benefits.
“It’s definitely a relief, just hearing all your hard work has paid off and at the end of the day, I still keep that chip on my shoulder,” Darrisaw said. “There’s not a lot of talk about me being OT1 and I have no problem with that. It’s just giving me extra motivation. At the end of the day, I know my ability. I know what I can do and I can’t wait to get to the league and show it.”