In the SI Media Exit Interview series, New York Jets QB Sam Darnold reflects on his rookie season, his podcast undertaking, social media and more.
This is the second part of SI Media’s 2018-19 NFL Exit Interview series. Find out what league analysts said about the health of the NFL in part one.
Facing the New York media is one thing. But trying to weave your way through Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve? That was Sam Darnold’s welcome to New York moment.
Last week, the Jets quarterback capped his rookie season by sitting on a panel assembled by ACE Media to discuss athlete-driven content. Afterwards, he talked with Sports Illustrated about his erstwhile fake Twitter account, Adam Gase memes, meeting the real Odell Beckham Jr., his thoughts on podcasting, and more.
On handling the New York media…
For me it was easy to transition. It was familiar to me after being at USC, being in L.A. So, I think that made it a lot easier to transition.
What was kind of different is, the media in New York, especially when you're pro, they realize that you're a pro and you don't have anything else going on, whereas the media in L.A., when we were at USC, they understood that we weren't getting paid, we had to go to class. We had all this other stuff that we had to do.
So they were very much more, not that people in New York aren't respectful, but the people in L.A. were just more respectful of your time, because they knew how much we had to do, and that we weren't even getting paid to do media and all that. But in New York, man, it's crazy. It's crazy. But everything's been really good. There's obviously been some learning curves along the way, but it's really fun for most part.
On his welcome to New York moment...
Yeah, shoot. I mean I took my family—this just happened obviously, but it was Christmas Eve. Me and my family flew in a helicopter over to the city. And oh my goodness. We did the whole Rockefeller thing. It was the busiest place on Earth. On the earth. And I didn't get recognized once.
Everyone had their head down, scrambling around, trying to get last-minute Christmas gifts, and it was just fricking a madhouse—a lot crazier than the movies even. That was just like, Oh my God, there's a lot of people here.
On the coaching search process...
I was fortunate enough to be a part of that process of hiring a new coach. So we had been discussing. I had talked to Gase. I had interviewed him, but we were really just talking, trying to get to know him and I had done that with a few other coaches and I really liked Gase. I really liked what he was about. I know the system that he has and all the success that he's had with other players as well.
I just knew that with him coming in and also Gregg Williams on the defensive side, the combination of those two guys, they're going to create so much energy in the building. I think that's going to be very contagious for our team. And I knew that right when we hired him it'd be the right fit, and I think that's the biggest thing, when talking about hiring coaches, is are they going to fit in well with the guys.
I think it's going to be really fun to try to help this team move towards a new culture and that new era or style of what we want to do and how we want to approach games. I think Gase and Gregg are very similar at, just being on the attack the whole game. I got to actually face Gregg Williams when I went to Cleveland. He fricking tore me up. So I'm looking forward to watching that from the sidelines.
On Gase’s first press conference, and the memes that followed...
Yeah it was all over the place. It was funny to me because I've never seen him like that. He's a super chill guy to talk to, super normal. But that was hilarious.
I just got a good chuckle out of it. It was just funny to watch and it was even funnier because I know the guy and know that he's not like an insane person, which a bunch of people were saying. It was a funny little thing and all the memes that popped up about him were hilarious, but I think that's the cool thing is he knows. He was just like, Oh, maybe more people will be paying attention to the Jets now.
On accepting how Sam Darnold the brand is different from Sam Darnold the person...
I had a funny story. In high school getting recruited, usually guys have Twitters and Instagrams so that they can talk to coaches. I didn't have Twitter. All I had was Instagram. So someone created a fake Twitter account about me and it was the most ridiculous stuff that you could ever think about. I was just like, What dude. Come on. And people thought it was me though, people who didn't know me.
People would search Sam Darnold. This account popped up and they were like, Oh, must be him, because they didn't see any other account. So the negative part of social media... My great friend now, one of my best friends, Cam Smith, linebacker at USC. He didn't know me. He thought that was me, and so he didn't talk to me, like at all, our whole first semester freshman year.
Then, as the year went on, we kind of found ourselves with the same group of friends because we had very similar personalities and he was just like, Man, I got to ask you, you're a lot different in person than you are on Twitter. And I was like On Twitter!? He pulled it up and I was like, Dude, that's not me. That's a fake account. So I ended up getting it deleted.
I thought that was just super funny. But, just the whole like reputation versus who the actual person is, it's a huge, huge deal in sports, even for me.
I just met Odell [Beckham] today. There's so much to think about Odell and who is Odell? There's this aura around him and then I just met him today and he's a normal dude. You know what I'm saying? He's a cool guy. He was like, ‘I'm going to be out in L.A. Let's hang,’ just like normal person. For me, it was like, Oh he's just dancing all the time, just out of control. He's just a normal person, which I think was really cool.
For me on social media, I try as hard as I can to be myself. I think everyone does, but there's always that part of it, at the end of the day, especially as an athlete, it's like, What's going to make you the most money? Because at the end of day, that's why we do what we do. We try to make a living playing this sport. Afterwards we're going to have another occupation that we love going to and we love trying to provide for our families. So at the end of the day you just think about all that. I think that goes into a lot of guys' posts in the league, and I think that can kind of leak into having a different reputation than what you actually are like off the field.
On launching (or relaunching) a podcast...
I love comedy and I love listening to comedians talk. I'm also into, I guess motivational speakers, but more just like cool stories that people have to share. I listen to Joe Rogan all the time.
He's kind of the perfect mix of that. I listen to his podcast all the time and that's really the only one that I get to really listen to when I have time. So I actually started, it's called Season of Sam. We're going to change the name because it's kind of corny, but it was called Season of Sam. I did it through USC and I don't know if you know Yogi Roth, but he's a great moderator for any event. He's the play-by-play commentator on Pac-12 Network. He's a great dude and he was moderating the podcast and doing it with me. I think we're going to do something similar this off-season. We'll hopefully have different guests.
On my podcast, I got to interview Will Ferrell, Sam Hunt, Colin Cowherd, all these different names and it was just really cool to be able to talk to those people about things that weren't everyday life for me, which is football. I think it's really cool to be able to broaden my scope so that I can just be the best person I can be and try to figure out different ways of how to do things or maybe find different interests. I think that's the cool part about podcasting. Not only are your fans getting to know who you are, but you also get to meet these great people. You find out things that you wouldn't have, just in like a 30-minute conversation. That's the cool thing about it.