Get your “Jaws” and “Baby Shark” references ready, Detroit Lions fans.
DJ Chark is here.
The Lions, in dire need of pass-catching help, agreed to a one-year contract with Chark on Tuesday. Chark is a big, speedy wide receiver who ended the final year of his rookie contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on injured reserve (fractured knee suffered Week 4).
Hence, the prove-it deal for a former second-round pick who has a 1,000-yard season on his ledger. Adding the 2019 Pro Bowl appearance to his credit, he instantly becomes the Lions’ most accomplished receiver.
So let’s learn a little more about the team’s latest addition:
Who is DJ Chark?
A Louisiana native, Darrell Chark Jr. was the 61st overall pick in the 2018 draft out of LSU. The Jags picked him during the same offseason they cut ties with Detroit native Allen Robinson, their former No. 1 wideout.
Chark has been a slow starter for his new teams (though he hasn’t played with top quarterback talent as a collegian or professional). In his first two years at LSU, Chark appeared in 11 total games and had no receptions, but he broke through with a 79-yard catch, scamper and score in 2016. Chark had 66 catches for 1,340 over his final two seasons in LSU’s run-first offense.
Then in his first NFL season, he had just 14 catches over 11 games, dealing with the struggles most rookie receivers face. But the second-year leap was dramatic.
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Chark caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns while making the Pro Bowl in 2019. Injuries have played a role since; Chark appeared in 17 games over the past two years combined and reeled in 60 catches for 860 yards (totals that would have ranked second among Lions wideouts in last year’s 17-game season).
How Chark ‘saved’ his father
At just 5 years old, Chark was an inspiration to his family, according to “The Advocate.”
His father had suffered a traumatic work accident that had him physically rehabilitating for more than 15 years. Darrell Chark Sr. was pinned between a ladder and concrete before falling 20 feet to the ground. His spine was twisted and he couldn’t walk straight, let alone work.
Darrell Sr., an attentive father of two small children, fell into a depression while contemplating how he’d provide for his family.
“When I got hurt,” Darrell said, “I thought we were going to lose everything.”
Then came along little DJ. Junior, just old enough for kindergarten, prodded his dad to get out of bed and play with him.
The depressed dad dreaded crawling out of bed and pushed his son hard in drills as a result. But DJ kept coming back, and it lit a fire in his father.
“He got me out of the depression,” Darrell Sr. said. “He really saved me.”
It’s no surprise DJ Chark has been able to bounce back from tough times on the field. It’s the Chark way.
His mother suffered a serious work injury to her spine in 2004 and his sister survived seven throat surgeries in seven months, culminating in a life-threatening nine-day coma when DJ was in college.
Both women are still here to revel in DJ’s success.
“It’s about keeping going,” Darrell Chark said. “Ain’t no quitting in this family.”
As good as it may sound, ‘Baby Chark’ isn’t his nickname
This fact won’t stop people from tweeting the children’s song or putting it on signs at Ford Field, but Chark’s nickname is actually “The Flash.”
He was named after the DC hero because of his prodigious speed at LSU. Chark flashed his quickness with two punt return touchdowns in college as well as three rushing touchdowns for the Tigers.
He didn’t have star passers to work with but still managed 874 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions his senior year. Then he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the 2018 combine.
For his NFL career, Chark has 147 catches for 2,042 yards and 15 touchdowns in 43 games played (30 starts).
An advocate for mental health
Chark hasn’t been afraid to talk about mental health, which used to be a blind spot for many NFL players. His struggles with family health problems, his own injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic were shared in a December 2020 article by Tyler Dunne.
The two chatted about different obstacles in Chark’s life and how he’s recovered. Chark talked about not letting the fear of COVID-19 cloud out his penchant for optimism.
“There’s never a finish line that you’re running to,” Chark says, “but you’re constantly and gradually getting better every day, finding new ways to defeat old habits.”
Sounds a bit like Dan Campbell, eh?
Like most rational people, he likes dogs and ‘The Office’
Some of the ways Chark protects his mental health are with his two pups, cartoons and the suburban misadventures of Michael Scott and Leslie Knope.
He loves his French bulldog, BamBam, who has his own Instagram page, and his miniature Australian shepherd, Dundie, a nod to the fictitious awards given in “The Office.” Chark’s Instagram also reveals he’s a father and a husband.
Though he likes characters such as Stewie from “Family Guy” or Tom from “Parks and Recreation”, there’s one protagonist that sticks out: Millennial icon Spongebob Squarepants.
“He’s a carefree, loving individual,” Chark said, “and he always ends up winning, even if it’s crazy! He just lives the blissful life.”
If Chark can bring a 1,000-yard season to the Lions, there will be plenty of bliss this fall in Detroit.
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