BEREA, OHIO -- Baldwin-Wallace College senior defensive end and 2010 quad team captain Keith Darbut (Miami, Fla./ Palmetto Senior) came to college from his native Florida four years ago with a dream. That dream was to help the Yellow Jackets earn a spot in the NCAA Division III National Playoffs and have an eventual shot at winning the school's second-ever national title in football.
"I heard a lot about the OAC [Ohio Athletic Conference] and Ben [senior teammate and fellow Floridian and outside linebacker Ben Pahl (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) also was looking to play for the Yellow Jackets," said Darbut, who has seen action on the defensive line all four years and has been a fulltime member of the rotation and starter for the past three seasons.
"Having Ben also coming to B-W was one of the major factors that helped me decide to come here and to Ohio," said Darbut. "Having a friend made it much easier to adjust. And now both of us are seniors and playing our last season of football."
As a freshman in the fall of 2007, Darbut split time between the varsity and junior varsity teams. He dressed for each varsity game, got into seven contests both as a member of the special teams and at end.
"We realized that Keith had talent from the first day he stepped on the field," said former Yellow Jacket Academic All-American defensive end and then Defensive Line Coach Gus Patouhas '90. "He was tall, fast, quick and the frame to be so much better. In both seasons that I was fortunate to coach Keith, we knew it was just a matter of time before his ability reached his potential."
In addition this season, Darbut switched numbers and also has switched positions to the other side of the football a few times.
For the first three years in Berea, Darbut donned number 97, but this year, he changed back to his old high school number of 10.
"In high school, I wore the No. 10 and it was at least three sizes smaller than the No. 97 I wore my first three years here," Darbut said with a chuckle. "It doesn't give the offensive lineman as much to grab and I won't get held as much while chasing the quarterback."
That's Darbut always looking for the advantage. But the number change also gave him the opportunity to help the Yellow Jackets even more.
In the Jackets' 38-14 season-opening win versus The College of Wooster, Darbut not only contributed a QB sack, a season-opening tradition he has had each of the past three years, he also added a touchdown reception.
That first year, Darbut was credited with just one tackle, but it was his first quarterback sack. That sack was the beginning of the B-W urban legend now know as the "Sackmaster". He also earned the first of his current three varsity letters.
"Keith's quickness can be overwhelming for an offensive lineman, tight end or fullback at times," said ninth-year Head Coach John Snell. "It is quite fun to watch Keith line up in an obvious passing situation and then just turning himself loose on an opposing quarterback. He certainly has a propensity for getting sacks."
As a sophomore, Darbut moved into the regular rotation on the defensive line and had 13 tackles, including eight for losses of 24 yards and 4.5 sacks for minus 18 yards. He was utilized more during passing situations than running plays. That has all changed now.
When current Yellow Jacket defensive coordinator Jim Meyer came on campus, he recognized Darbut's ability to chase QBs, but he also felt that Darbut had the natural ability to also stop the run and play on every down.
"Keith is simply an athlete with a great deal of God-given ability and talent, and we felt it was natural for him to play on both running and passing downs," said Meyer. "He can make so much happen and force the offense to change its gameplan. Keith is definitely an asset to our defense."
As a junior, Darbut saw more action and was credited with 25 tackles, including seven for loss and five sacks, while he also caused a fumble, deflected three passes, caused seven QB hurries and blocked a kick.
"Keith's best season was as a junior," said Snell, then hesitating and saying, "well, until this season." And,Snell is right.
This season, Darbut has come out and played outstanding football for the 3-0 Yellow Jackets. In addition, his leadership as a team captain is evident.
"Keith brings a lot more to the table than just sacking quarterbacks," said junior teammate and defensive end Derron Hamilton (Euclid). "He is an outstanding team leader who is always willing to help me and many other younger players. We watch the way he chases the QB. The desire he shows and the heart he displays makes all of us what to play better."
Darbut shines the light right back on Hamilton.
"I don't have to chase the quarterback to the other side of field anymore," said Darbut with a laugh. "Derronis a good pass rusher and he either chases the QB back to me or keeps him in the pocket for me to get to him. And, if I don't get him, I know Derron will."
After three games this season, Darbut has 15 tackles, including five for losses of 31 yards and three sacks for minus 23 yards. He also has recovered a fumble and forced QBs to hurry passes on four other occasions.
"Keith is a joy to line up next to," said senior defensive tackle and fellow team captain Kevin Phipps (Pataskala/ Watkins Memorial). "He plays all out on every down, but those passing situations hold special meaning for him. His quickness causes problems for the offense, and that leaves additional opportunities for our line and linebackers."
On BW's first offensive play from scrimmage, sophomore transfer QB Ryan O'Rourke (Avon) took the snap from center, faked play-action pass and found Darbut streaking down the center of the field and just beyond the nearest defensive back. O'Rourke threw a perfectly tight spiral that Darbut grabbed at the five yard line and carried it into the endzone for his first career TD.
"It felt great," said Darbut, a business administration major who hopes to pursue a career in the business world following graduation. "It is very nice to start the first play of my senior year on offense with a touchdown, and it's even better to help my team start off with a 6-0 lead en route to a team victory."
When Keith is asked who his favorite football player is, he is quick to answer.
"Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens is my favorite player," says Darbut. "He's a University of Miami guy who's known for making the big play during the big game and during a key moment in the game. He's a prime time player.
When asked what Keith wants to be remembered for at BW, he also is quick to answer.
"We want to restore the winning tradition of Baldwin Wallace football," said Darbut. "We want to return the team to winning championships and playing in the NCAA Division III National Playoffs.
"Our goal every year is to win the OAC title, get into the Division III Playoffs and win a Division III national title," Darbut continued. "We want to re-establish that tradition for now and for many years to come."
Obviously Darbut is as passionate about chasing his dreams as he is quarterbacks.