|Alex Darras sports a brace on his right knee as a result of his summer internship, more or less.
Sewanee athletics photo
By Brian Lester
Alex Darras has had an interest in medicine for quite some time.
A player who battled injuries in high school and then tore his ACL last season as a sophomore in college, the Sewanee quarterback figured, based off his experience, that the medical field would be worth looking into as a profession.
This past summer he had a chance to spend a couple of months shadowing the doctor who performed his ACL surgery last season and that further cemented his belief that a career in medicine is for him.
“Being on the patient side really piqued my interest, and after the summer, being on the medical side of it confirmed everything I’ve felt about it,” Darras said.
Darras is now a junior for the Tigers and off to a solid start to his season, guiding Sewanee to a 2-1 record and earning player of the week honors in the SAA after leading his team to a 28-20 win over Austin College in the conference opener Saturday.
But late last season, the story was different. Seven weeks into the season, Darras went down in the game against Birmingham-Southern. His season ended that night. He was running down the sideline and injured his knee as he was tackled.
“At that point in the season, I was really comfortable with the offense and hit that groove that I had been waiting for,” Darras said. “I was on the same page with the receivers and our offense had really started to click. It put things in perspective for me. Some guys who have an injury like that are going to hang it up, but I realized how much I loved the game and was willing to do what I had to to stay in it.”
Jeremy Bruce, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, performed the surgery on Darras. He was also the team doctor for the high school Darras played for, so the relationship between the two was tight.
So it made sense for him to reach out to Bruce in the spring about following him around over the summer and gain a better understanding of everything being a doctor entailed.
“I was looking to do an internship or something in research, but I was a little behind applying for things through school, so I talked with him and he said he would love to have me in his office,” Darras said. “I had a chance to shadow him and even watch some surgeries.”
Sewanee coach Travis Rundle thought it was a great experience for his quarterback and noted it says a lot about Darras as a student-athlete.
“He’s an amazing leader and an example for others to follow,” Rundle said. “Everyone sees how hard he works. He interacts with guys well and is a demanding player. It’s easy to see why he was voted a captain as a junior.”
Darras enjoyed the time he had with Bruce over the summer. He learned a lot about the commitment a doctor must have to excel in the profession.
“You see how much they really do on a day-to-day basis,” Darras said. “People don’t understand all of the things a doctor has to do for each patient, especially the doctor I was working with. He’s very personable and that helps patients trust him, but it takes time to build that personal connection with those patients and treat them based on what they want to get done and the expectations they have.”
“I could relate to those athletes. If a senior came in and his surgery was optional and he wanted to play through it, I could understand that because I know how he feels.”
— Sewanee quarterback Alex Darras, pre-med major
Darras had a chance to build relationships with some of the patients. He saw several athletes come in with injuries and could relate to what they were going through. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that he was in the position they were in.
“I could relate to those athletes. If a senior came in and his surgery was optional and he wanted to play through it, I could understand that because I know how he feels,” Darras said.
As a quarterback, Darras is tasked with solving problems. Maybe it’s reading the defense and thinking about the play he’s going to run or changing up the play at the line of scrimmage. That experience translated to a medical setting as well.
“Every day you learned little things, ways to understand or approach problems. If a patient came to you with a problem, it’s up to you to solve it,” Darras said. “I think that’s the big thing I learned in the medical field because it applies to life on the field and off it.”
Darras is making the right decisions on the field more often than not. He leads the league in completions (68) and completion percentage (61.8). He has thrown for 789 yards and six touchdowns.
“His decision making has really improved,” Rundle said. “He knows where to go with the ball. Last year he had a pretty good idea, but now he knows exactly where to go. He also great chemistry with his teammates and has a tight bond with the team.”
Rundle knows what it means to be an NCAA Division III athlete. His dad, Craig Rundle, is in his 22nd and final season as head coach at Albion and Travis was a two-time All-MIAA quarterback for the Britons.
“I love seeing kids have a chance to pursue opportunities off the field,” Travis Rundle said. “I tell kids all of the time they can do anything they want academically, athletically and socially. It’s a great thing for athletes at this level.”
Darras is looking forward the remainder of this season, hoping to lead the Tigers into contention for the conference championship.
He has a bright future off the field as well. His dream is to be in sports medicine one day. And when the day comes to finally go to medical school, he’ll be a step or two ahead of his peers.
“It’s amazing. Even in just those two months, I learned more than I could have with any other opportunity,” Darras said. “On my last day, (Bruce) told me that with everything I’ve learned, I could probably skip the first year or two of medical school. To have that opportunity and have a chance to interact with patients and figure out what was wrong and why they were coming in. It’s big for what I want to do in the future getting into medicine.”