Ever felt scared about leaving Fresno, because you might not succeed and come back feeling like a failure?
Or nervous about returning to Fresno because you might never leave again?
Darian Duckett feels your pain.
He’s been through it all.
He agonized about leaving Fresno – and dreaded returning.
Plus, he’s still fighting the notion that he’ll never get to leave his hometown ever again.
“They say once you come back, you’re stuck,” Duckett recalled hearing from people a few years ago.
But as Duckett’s Fresno journey suggests, sometimes, you can come home and still succeed without feeling forever trapped. It just takes some persistence.
Football was Duckett’s ticket out of town. Not that the former Bullard High football player necessarily wanted to leave Fresno initially. Duckett would’ve been happy playing for Fresno State.
But when Lincoln University in Missouri offered Duckett a scholarship to play NCAA Division II football, he saw it as a chance to get out and explore beyond Fresno.
Most importantly, it was an opportunity to keep playing football and continue chasing after his NFL dreams.
But one semester in, Duckett said he already could tell that Lincoln wasn’t for him.
He didn’t play during his first football season there, instead redshirting. And he said he felt there were too many distractions on campus.
“I wasn’t feeling the program,” Duckett said. “It was a party town. I was more focused on reaching my goals.”
The thought of returning to Fresno, however, made Duckett nervous.
Sure, he was excited about the idea of seeing his family again. But he’d been warned many times before about coming back to Fresno.
“It’s like something causes people to get stuck in this city,” Duckett said. “It weighed on my mind heavily, they telling me, ‘You’re going to get stuck, especially if you go to Fresno City.’
“I kept telling them: ‘That’s not me. I’m not going to get stuck.’”
Duckett didn’t have enough credits to transfer to Fresno State, so he ended up switching over to Fresno City. He even played football for the Rams.
There, Duckett came to realize after two seasons that his football dreams were fading, especially after he didn’t receive any D-I offers.
He had considered walking on to the Fresno State football team, but his inquiry failed to generate much interest with coach Jeff Tedford’s staff. So Duckett decided that what he wanted most was simply to continue his education.
“Football will always be football, and I enjoy it and love it,” Duckett said. “At the same time, I took a different direction in my life. It was just time to let it go and pursue something else.”
So Duckett placed much of his attention on his academics.
He’s now set to walk Fresno State’s graduation stage, having majored in business entrepreneurship. To officially graduate, Duckett just has to pass a couple of study abroad business management courses in Australia this summer.
“I just say, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do,’” Duckett said, “or what you’re going to end up doing.”
Duckett already is making moves and plans to get into the legalized cannabis industry.
Earlier this month, Duckett’s company “KingsFlavors” became the first cannabis business to participate in Fresno State’s Business Expo.
Duckett worked on his business model for “KingsFlavors” throughout the school year and plans to run his business in Fresno, should Fresno County decide to allow recreational cannabis businesses to set up. If not, Duckett said he’ll take his business to the Bay Area or Los Angeles.
“Coming from a city that’s talked badly about, I wanted to prove people wrong,” Duckett said. “I’ve got a lot of determination and motivation.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get stuck here. And if I continue to keep living here, it’s because I choose to. Not because it’s the only option I had.”