April 17, 2014
By Dan Forstot, MGoBlue.com
Chesson and Darboh initially crossed paths during a visit to Ann Arbor in the midst of their senior years in high school. During the visit, Darboh had the opportunity to meet the Chesson family.
"Amara met my parents first. He was so excited when he found out that we were both from Africa and we share each other's culture," said Chesson.
The family of Chesson, a 6'3" junior/sophomore hailing from St. Louis, Mo., fled from its native Liberia when Jehu was a child. Darboh, a 6-foot-2, 214-pound redshirt sophomore wideout, was born in Sierra Leone, but moved to Des Moines, Iowa, when he was seven years old.
Upon returning from his visit to U-M's campus, Darboh excitedly told his brothers and sisters about the Chessons.
"Being from African heritage, Jehu and I were raised very similarly. When we met each other, we were very alike in that way. We could relate. It was something I knew, that if we were to both come here, I would have someone that I could relate to," said Darboh.
Both young men budded into high school standouts on the gridiron and were recruited by a number of major programs. While the two of them were strongly considering Michigan, Darboh pulled the trigger first, committing in December of 2011. Less than three weeks later, Chesson followed suit in pledging to the Maize and Blue.
Chesson was not afraid to admit that Darboh played a role in his decision, as the two talked throughout high school about the process. With similar goals in mind, which were to play for a program with a strong academic reputation in addition to having an excellent tradition on the field, it came down to instinct for both players -- a sense of comfort.
"It was kind of a gut feeling," according to Darboh. "I was looking at different schools, some closer to home, but I think with Michigan, it gave me a place where I could get the most out of my abilities. I could get good coaching and good schooling. When I came for my visit, I got along with the players who were already here, so that was a big thing for me."
The two became roommates once they hit campus. Now that they will be entering their third seasons with the program, expectations are high. Chesson returns as the team's third-leading receiver, while he also thrives as a special teams ace.
"I love working hard on special teams. I think it's a fun position coming down the field and hitting someone," said Chesson. "A goal of mine is to always be the first one down the field on punts and kickoffs."
After contributing on special teams during his first season with the team, Darboh missed the entire 2013 campaign after injuring his foot just prior to the season opener. Although he might not have been able to gain experience on the field, Darboh says he acquired valuable insight observing the game he loves from a different angle.
"Not being able to play was tough for me at first, but I used it as a chance to learn from guys like Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo and the rest of the seniors," explained Darboh. "Since I was at home watching, I'd try to pick up on everything, from the opponents' defenses to other things I wouldn't have picked up on if I was playing."
Both Darboh and Chesson figure to play increased roles on the outside with the Wolverines graduating four of their seven leading receivers from last season, in addition to the torn ACL sustained by sophomore tight end Jake Butt this past spring. The pair expects to see increased playing time now that they have had time to mature both physically and mentally.
Off the field, the two continue to be close friends, brought together by the special connection they share.
"It's just like if you met someone who went to the same high school as you and you played the same games together in gym class. We know each other's backgrounds based on where we're from," said Chesson. "I think it's pretty cool when the other guys have no idea what we're talking about when it comes to a food that no one else has even heard of."
Among other traditions, enjoying 'FuFu,' a delicacy native to Western Africa, is a favorite among the duo.
"My sister lives in Columbus now and whenever she brings me something, I tell Jehu that I have some African food if you want to come eat. We still have that going on," Darboh said.
After contributing in more limited capacities during their first two years, both Chesson and Darboh are hoping to increase their roles as they enter their third seasons donning the winged helmet.