BY RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-In-Chief
The best week of Amara Darboh’s life began with him becoming a United States citizen and ended with one of the greatest catches in Michigan football history.
The Wolverines’ wide receiver couldn’t help but flash a smile when recollecting on it.
“It was a great week,” Darboh said, “(a) great way to end it, too.”
Darboh shined in Michigan’s 31-0 win over Brigham Young Saturday, but it all started with his U.S. citizenship test Monday. He was born 21 years ago in a war-torn Sierra Lione that took his parents’ lives. He has lived in the U.S. the past 14 years after immigrating from Western Africa.
Darboh found out he passed immediately after taking the test. Becoming a U.S. citizen was the final step in a long journey.
“I’ve been here since I was seven… and growing up here, I kind of considered myself American too, not forgetting my background,” Darboh said. “Getting this final step… it feels official now.”
Darboh spoke to the Michigan football team after Wednesday’s practice, the night before becoming a U.S. citizen. The team has a “wise words” session after every practice, and given his recent accomplishment, it was his turn to speak. So he thanked his teammates, like tight end Khalid Hill, for their support through his journey to citizenship.
“It’s great. I didn’t even know,” Hill said. “I’m like, ‘You’re about to be a U.S. citizen?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘That’s amazing, I never knew it.’ It’s a great thing.
“I can’t really say how it would feel, but for him, that’s a huge thing, to finally become a U.S. citizen, probably vote and do all the stuff you couldn’t do. I felt that was a great thing and a great accomplishment.”
Darboh took his oath to become a U.S. citizen Thursday at the U.S. District Court in Detroit. The usually-monotone press conference version of Jim Harbaugh perked up when asked about Darboh’s week.
“He’s so good because he’s a do-stuff-right guy all the time. Having the chance to be around Amara, (becoming a citizen) meant so much to him,” Michigan’s head coach said. “The picture that (photographer) David Turnley got of Amara with the 90-year-old lady in Detroit, that’s powerful. It speaks volumes on how fortunate we all are and how much gratitude he has.”
The Wolverines celebrated Darboh’s accomplishment with a party afterwards that included hamburgers, cake and balloons. “It was much more than I ever expected it to be like,” he said.
On Saturday, Darboh took the field and listened to the Star Spangled Banner for the first time as an American. He played an integral role in Michigan’s win over BYU. But his first catch as an American — a 21-yard reception on Michigan’s second drive of the game — was one to remember.
Darboh was in man coverage, and quarterback Jake Rudock figured he’d give him a shot. “The ball got a little more outside than I wanted it to,” Rudock said.
No worries; Darboh leapt, twisted his body and speared the ball with his left hand. The catch was similar to New York Giants’ star Odell Beckham Jr.’s famed grab last season.
“Everybody was geeked… It was like a top-10 catch,” Hill said. “If it doesn’t make top ten, I’ll be mad.”
Rather than celebrating his catch, Darboh got right back up for the next play, trying to keep his emotions at bay. His grab extended the Wolverines’ drive, and there was business to attend to.
“I didn’t try to do too much because it was just a third down catch,” he said. “I knew we had to get the play… keep the ball moving and try to score. I got a little excited but tried to get back to the huddle and then get the drive moving.”
Darboh caught a touchdown pass later in the game. USA chants filled Michigan’s locker room as he was awarded a game ball for his efforts, according to Harbaugh. Darboh broke the team down on “USA.”
The best week of Darboh’s life began and ended with two extremes.
“That was a great way to do it, became a U.S. citizen and had a great catch,” Hill said. “Two positives in one week, that’s pretty crazy. But that’s him.”