Darren Mougey signed with San Diego State as a quarterback with one eye on the Aztecs’ future schedule, knowing that he would make a triumphant return to Sun Devil Stadium.
That is where Mougey passed and ran Scottsdale Chaparral High to a state championship in 2002, and he expected to be taking snaps for another red- and black-clad team in today’s game against Arizona State.
Football fate had something else in mind for the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder. He is indeed returning, but Mougey will be catching passes, not throwing them, as he has recently made a transition to wide receiver.
“I’m enjoying it, and I have no regrets,” said Mougey, a junior. “It has given me an opportunity to get on the field and help the team in other ways. It’s been a work in progress since the spring, but I feel I’m improving.”
In last week’s game against Washington State, Mougey caught four passes — his first receptions since junior high school — for 52 yards and a touchdown. The score made him the first SDSU player in 20 years to record a TD via passing, rushing and receiving in a career.
“Darren’s future is at wide receiver and more of an inside H-back type,” Aztecs coach Chuck Long said. “He’s off to a good start at a brand-new position, and he has been learning it well.”
The wheels for Mougey’s move were set in motion in fall camp in 2006, when the coaches approached him about playing receiver. However, with starting quarterback Kevin O’Connell out following thumb surgery, Mougey was needed behind center.
In the fourth game of last year, Mougey suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against San Jose State. O’Connell returned, and Mougey began the transition to wide receiver during the spring.
“It was a mutual thing,” Mougey said. “We had guys who came in and played well after I got hurt, and Kevin is a senior and a leader. I had been competing for the quarterback job since I got here, and I didn’t mind going into a season knowing that (I had a set role).”
His height and athleticism — Mougey also played safety in high school — made it easier to leave quarterback behind. He has the physical tools to create matchup problems for defenses, and with two full seasons to hone his skills, he hopes to fulfill professional aspirations as a receiver.
“The route running and blocking as a receiver are things that I need to work on,” Mougey said. “I try not to think about (the pros) too much, but this is an opportunity for me, a different path for my career. I’d love to continue playing receiver as long as I can.”