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Former Washington State receiver Devard Darling says Pullman is ‘where I found out who I was’

HOUSTON – The text message exchanges between Devard Darling, his brother and cousins this week were friendly and just a little fierce.

Initially, the former Washington State wide receiver describes the Darling clan as “a house divided right now, a family divided.” Then, considering the number of University of Houston diplomas spread out among his relatives, compared to the diplomas from Washington State, Darling rephrases, “Well, just me.”

Darling, who grew up in the Houston area and attended Stephen F. Austin High School in nearby Sugar Land, Texas, was WSU’s honorary captain Friday night in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff game against Houston at NRG Stadium.

Darling and his three boys proudly wore crimson WSU attire, while almost every other member of his family sported bright-red Houston caps and T-shirts. His older brother and cousin were former track and field captains at UH who each went to the Summer Olympics a handful of times, representing the Bahamas.

At least a dozen other members of Darling’s family attended UH.

“It’s a bunch of them,” he said. “I’m the only one that went up to Washington State.”

That’s a badge Darling still wears proudly. The former Cougar wideout said Pullman is the place “where I found out who I was” and it helped him heal and recover from a difficult family wound.

These days, Darling lives in Gig Harbor, Washington, and keeps busy by managing his nonprofit organization, the As One Foundation. The group’s mission, according to its website, is to “provide sickle cell trait education presentations and free testing to prevent adverse health effects and even death due to sickle cell trait in young athletes.”

Darling’s twin brother Devaughn died from sickle cell trait complications while both were playing football at Florida State. Devard transferred to WSU and had a standout career, catching 105 passes for 1,630 yards and 30 touchdowns, playing in the 2003 Rose Bowl before being selected by Baltimore in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft.

The former WSU wideout and his foundation are extending aid to Darling’s native country, the Bahamas, in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. His aunt is the chief of medical and emergency services in Darling’s hometown of Nassau. As One, he said, is “trying to help people who’ve lost everything. My foundation is giving directly to the Bahamian first responders down there.”

When Darling reminisces about his time on the Palouse, two memories come to mind – WSU’s appearance in the Rose Bowl, of course, being one. He also recalls the Cougars’ 2003 win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl, saying “Our class was the first ones to have back-to-back (bowl) seasons. We feel like we helped change the culture there. It was a good time.”

Darling, as a deep-threat receiver, would’ve relished playing in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.

“I went straight down the field and that’s what I want to see,” he said. “I know it’s a lot of short passes, a different game now. The spread. But that straight speed down the field, throwing the big 9 route, that’s what I want to see.”

Darling, surrounded by Washington Husky fans in the Puget Sound area, wants one more thing from his alma mater.

“Win the Apple Cup, man,” he said. “All this is for naught unless we win that thing. That’s the one concern.”