Darnell Mooney is a driven young man. If people didn’t know that before, they sure do now. There was a reason former wide receivers coach Mike Furrey pounded the table for him back in 2020. It wasn’t his speed or quickness. Furrey saw a young man that was maniacally motivated to be great. His work ethic was unlike most receivers anywhere. There was no such thing as rest periods with Mooney.
When people look at him, the immediate assumption is he’s focused on taking full advantage of his speed and quickness. That means exclusively working on his route-running. There is no question Mooney does this. His routes have improved so much from where he was as a rookie. Yet that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. According to Dan Pompei of The Athletic, the Bears receiver is especially dedicated to his strength training.
The results may blow your mind.
Remember that Mooney is 180 lbs. He is not what anybody would call a poster child for weight room training. Yet what he does for lifts regularly would make many bulkier men struggle. He is so advanced that he even takes potshots at his much larger teammates on the offensive line.
He’s strong everywhere. The proof is on an incline bench, where he throws up 90-pound dumbbells eight times, and in a squat rack, where he has lifted 405 pounds.
It is not unusual for him to chirp at Bears offensive linemen as they work out. “Yo, what are you doing?” he will say. “We are lifting the same weights.”
Yet, everywhere he goes, he hears, “You aren’t very big.” Or, “Aren’t you too small to play football?”
For those wondering, the typical squat weight for an offensive lineman is around 450 lbs. The standard size of a tackle or guard is 6’4, 300-310 lbs. Mooney is five inches shorter and 130 lbs lighter than that. Yet he’s only 40 lbs less in his squat.
That is absurd.
No matter his weight, it’s evident that he’s bigger than the scale says he is. Mooney has “hidden strength,” according to Furrey. And he thinks like a larger man.
“He’s so small, but he swears he could beat up anybody,” DeRamus says. “He’ll charge at the biggest person. He don’t care. I guess he’s got little man syndrome.”
That might explain why defensive backs had a harder time stopping him last year than they expected. Most of them were focused on countering his speed and quickness. They were focused on manning up on him and playing physical. No doubt they received a nasty shock when he countered with significant power of his own.
Darnell Mooney is already emerging as a team leader.
Over the past two years, he left that job to Allen Robinson for obvious reasons. Now with A-Rob gone, there is a void that must be filled. Mooney seems to have embraced the greater responsibility. Not only is he working with teammates to help them get better, but he’s also not afraid to push them. If that means some trash talking in the weight room, then so be it. Whatever it takes to make himself and the offense better.
Hearing these stories is beyond encouraging. It reminds Bears fans why Darnell Mooney should be a breakout candidate on every list going into 2022. Yet national media outlets treat him as a #3 option at best. He was nothing more than somebody that benefitted from Robinson’s presence for two years. That suits Mooney just fine. He has made a career out of being doubted ever since high school. The more people ignore him, the more motivated he becomes.
That is why the doom and gloom surrounding the Bears this year could spark his best season yet.
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