Darren Sproles, a former player for The Philadelphia Eagles, the New Orleans Saints and the San Diego Chargers, made history in 2007 when he became the first player in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt for his first two NFL touchdowns in the same game. In 2021, he was selected to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
After 2007, Sproles was approached more often for interviews, which exacerbated his stuttering. “I had to talk to the media a lot, and once they put a camera in my face that's when it got bad," Sproles said. 'I just had to work on it. I couldn't really stress about it, because that's just me."
Sproles, who became aware of his stuttering at age four, says the problem became more pronounced when he was a star football player at Olathe North High School and at Kansas State University. Coming out of Kansas State, Sproles was one of the most prolific runners and all-purpose performers in college football history. He set nearly every school record imaginable - 23 in all - and he is regarded by many as the best player in the 110-year history of Kansas State football.
Playing the game has always come easy for Sproles. The spoken word is more difficult, but Sproles hasn’t let that stop him. He continues to take steps to control his stuttering. He bypassed potential NFL riches following his junior season and returned to Kansas State to complete his degree in speech pathology. “When I went to college I majored in speech pathology because I really wanted to learn about stuttering and how I can better my speech,” Sproles said. “I feel from me learning about it helped me find tools to help me out." He also worked with a speech pathologist to make interviews less difficult.
Now, Sproles doesn’t let his stuttering get to him: “I don't have to be in a hurry to say something.” Darren Sproles’ determination and words of wisdom can inspire others in the stuttering community who are struggling with their speech:
“Just work on it. Take classes and learn more about where stuttering comes from. I remember a long time ago my grandpa told me, “don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do anything because you stutter.” I always remembered that and worked hard to improve my speech."
Videos: Darren Sproles visits with students and NFL Characters Unite