DJ Chark says reaching the NFL is 'a sacrifice' and reveals his methods for getting ahead
"I used to think as a kid that if you were good, you play in the NFL," Chark said. "Then I realised it's much more than just being talented. It’s a sacrifice that you have to make to get here."
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 12/08/19 6:09am
Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark spoke to Sky Sports about adapting to the professional game and what advice he would give to NFL Academy students.
Last week, we shared our interview with 14-year NFL veteran Johnathan Joseph in which he discussed his journey to the league and what it takes to make it to the NFL.
This week, as we carry on counting down to the season - which kicks off on Friday, September 6 at 1.20am when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers - we share another of our discussions with NFL players from the NFL Academy's final trials at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in July.
Behind the NFL Academy's stadium showcase
In the first ever NFL event at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 150 teenagers took part in the final trials for the NFL Academy.
Unlike Joseph, Jags wideout Chark is definitely a baby in the NFL. At 22 years old, with just 14 catches and 174 yards to his name entering his second season, he can't say he's carved out a solid career as a pro - yet.
However, by making it to the league at all (he was selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft), he has reached a place few people do.
Speaking with Sky Sports, Chark shared some of the things that helped him make it and gave some advice to those British kids in the Academy who are looking to follow in his footsteps...
Sky: Some of the kids here have no experience. What were you doing at 16/17 and how much experience did you have already?
DC: "At 17, I enrolled in college so I was pretty experienced in the game of football.
"I think I started playing tackle football at seven. America's different so I was playing football for 10 years by the time I went into college so I was pretty experienced.
"But I think it's a good job that the NFL is doing this for people and giving them the opportunity and letting them know that you can play, you can get the opportunity.
"It's a fun game, it's a fun sport and I think that gets lost in the competition. At the end of the day, it is still a fun game and you can tell just by the way they are having fun out here today."
How important was coaching and mentorship when you were growing up and at that age?
"It was huge.
"I talked to a guy [at the trials] who said that he played football here and they only have three coaches and they were all offensive lineman and he was a receiver!
"One thing I can say about me growing up playing football is I had plenty of, if not coaches, people who gave me input about what they think about football because in America, everyone knows about football.
"I had the opportunity to separate what I felt like was good information from what I felt was bad information, whereas a lot of people here don't have that opportunity to separate good from bad information because they're not getting as much of it.
"So I think I had a lot of mentors and people that taught me the game of football, from good experiences and bad."
What do these kids need to do and show in order to make it to the NFL?
"Right now it’s just about putting your best foot forward and showing that you have the courage to come out and do it.
"Once you get into the academy, just learning everything that you can about football, learning the rules, and getting better at your skills.
"Then after that, once you're better at your skills and you are learning the game, then it's about competition and you get better and better at that.
"But just keep learning and whatever information you get, just keep taking that and if you can, research. Do whatever research you can about it."
What have you learned from football that you will serve you as life skills?
"From the competitive side, I realise that nothing is really given.
"People see players in the NFL, and I used to think as a kid that if you were good, you play in the NFL. Then I realised it's much more than just being talented.
"It’s a sacrifice that you have to make to get here.
"You are going to have a lot of times where you have to make decisions. Your personal life also affects the game and the competition so it's a lifestyle, I think.
"There's a lot that goes into it."
Sky Sports will have more from the NFL Academy as we build-up to the regular season, which begins with the Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears at 1.20am on Friday, September 6.
Follow us on Twitter @SkySportsNFL.