Former LOHS football standout discovers new passion
If Lake Oswego High School football followers have recently tuned into 1080 The Fan, local sports radio station 1080 AM, in the past few months they might have heard a familiar voice over the airwaves.
Will Darkins, a 2007 Lake Oswego High School graduate and standout football player, has been with the station for the past year, starting as an intern last summer and eventually moving into a permanent role as an assistant producer. Now he regularly mans the sound board and handles Sportscenter updates for producers of the three weekday shows when necessary, even subbing in on Primetime with Isaac and Big Suke from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. depending on schedules.
Darkins, 28, says talking on air was nerve-racking at first, but took to the experience quickly. And though he admits he has much room to grow, he was successful at his new role almost immediately, so much so that he was recently named producer of the stations Saturday morning show The Sinner and the Saint.
If you listen to Darkins speak on the radio, often weighing in on topics show hosts are discussing as well as steering the on-air talent toward necessary commercial breaks, its easy to forget that hes a relative newbie at the station. It can be hard to believe that just a few short years ago he was bouncing from job to job without any idea what type of career he might want to pursue.
And while it would make sense that Darkins ended up working at a sports radio station because of his past, which included playing four seasons of football at Oregon State as a linebacker and fullback, the irony is that his football career is the one thing that nearly kept him from pursuing his new position in the first place.
Darkins finished up at Oregon State in 2010 where he studied speech communication. He enjoyed his time in Corvallis, but says his football experience was tumultuous including many ups and downs. He says it didnt take him long to realize that Division I football wasnt the same as playing in the Three Rivers League.
Playing at Oregon State I got the message really quick that I wasnt as good as most people. When you get into D1 sports you are most likely one of the most gifted players from where you came, he says. But once I got there, my fall camp freshman year, I realized everyone was on the same level or better. My first two years I didnt realize how to work hard or how hard you had to work to find a place to play.
He hardly played in his first two seasons, occasionally making appearances on kickoffs. He received a wakeup call following spring ball in the tail end of his second season in Corvallis.
I went in after spring ball for a meeting with my position coach and he asked me how I thought spring ball went, Darkins recalls. I said I thought I made some improvements but had a lot to work on, pretty much the standard response, and he said Ill tell you what I dont think youre doing great. I dont see you ever starting, and you might play special teams, but you might want to consider transferring.'
It was one of my darkest moments one of the first times someone really told me how it is.
The moment made Darkins reconsider football altogether, eventually deciding to make the switch from the defensive side of the ball to fullback. In his final two seasons for the Beavers Darkins saw an increased role, but didnt produce much in the form of statistics, ending his career with three total catches. When he left Oregon State he decided he wanted to get away from football entirely, and detached himself from the world of sports. Without the structure of football he found himself searching for his next move, and it wasnt a couple years until he decided to pursue broadcasting.
I had no interest in sports at all when I got out of college. I wanted to distance myself from that in a certain sense, Darkins says. For a while I worked at a car rental place, then in the finance industry as a receptionist. I realized at a point that that life style wasnt for me. Being stationary, sitting at a desk from 9-5, and so I started asking family about what I should do. In high school I really liked acting and was involved in theatre so broadcasting was something my mom suggested.
He enrolled at Mt. Hood Community College, eventually obtaining an associates degree in broadcasting. He initially wanted to work for a station that focused on news or music, but happenstance brought Darkins back to the sports world when 1080 brought him on as an intern last summer.
I just jumped into it and I wanted to get the experience. With most radio everything is pretty much the same in terms of the technical and the equipment, Darkins says. After interning for part of the summer and fall I just fell into it and really liked sports talk radio. From there I decided this was what I want to do because this is the most happy Ive been for two years.
Darkins has re-assimilated himself into sports and says he again enjoys what was once one of his passions. What he likes most about his new station, however, is the consistent philosophy across all programs.
We try to not so much overload the audience with sports talk, but also make an effort at just entertaining, he says. (Primetime host) Isaac Ropp is someone whos helped me a lot, just because hes someone who doesnt take himself seriously but is also the master at creating conversational content. He and (Jason Scukanec) on primetime just really nail it like theyre talking to you in a room. They make sure to not talk at the audience but make it feel like the audience is in on the conversation.
Darkins says his experiences in his new career have helped him grow as a person, both in understanding who he is and how he wants to approach life. He recently started an internship with KOIN 6 News, in addition to his gig at 1080, and says he has aspirations of hosting a radio show or appearing on television someday.
But for now Darkins is content working on various shows at 1080, becoming more comfortable on air while learning everything he can about the industry. He says he recently spoke to Lake Oswego Head Coach Steve Coury and hopes to get involved with the LOHS football team next year, too.
Because of his new attitude he refuses to get ahead of himself, instead enjoying the next segment, the next show, the next day. But like a loose fumble Darkins is always ready to pounce on his next opportunity.
Itd be fun to be a host, but Im really realistic about what opportunities come my way. A lot of things Ive gotten into lately Ive tried to follow the mantra of live in the moment and dont plan ahead too far, he says. Its easy to get into a career field and conjure up this fantasy of what the end goal might be. In reality the more you stay in the moment and enjoy whats around you the more likely you are to perform well.