COLUMBIA — To young fans across the nation, college football players are often seen as more than just men who score touchdowns — they’re seen as superheroes.
But it wasn’t long ago that an MU football player began creating his own superheroes.
As an elementary school student, cornerback Darnell Terrell immersed himself in comic books. He loved Spiderman and X-Men. Marvel and DC. While many of his peers played outside after school, he locked himself in his room, reading one comic after another.
“I love comic books,” he said. “Any movie that comes out that has anything to do with comic book characters, I’m always the first to see it.”
When Terrell was in first grade, he began drawing characters similar to the ones he read about. He even created their own special powers and developed multiple story lines.
One of the first characters he came up with was named “Phoebus,” which is the secondary name of the Greek sun-god Apollo.
Terrell created the character based on his uncle, David Terrell, who spent hours helping his nephew come up with different characters and story lines.
“He was interested in hearing some of my ideas,” Darnell Terrell said. “I was actually going to name the character after him, but the character was from another world, so it wouldn’t have made sense for him to have the name ‘David.’”
The time the two relatives spent together was equally important for David Terrell. He shared his nephew’s passion for comics and cherished the time he spent with him while Darnell Terrell’s father was at work.
“That was one thing I liked more than anything because we grew up together,” David Terrell said. “I was a kid when he was a kid, and he was my only nephew at the time.”
As Darnell Terrell grew up, he continued to work on his sketches. When he was in high school, he began to make flip books that made his cartoons appear to come to life. They were so popular that classmates offered to buy them.
“After that I started doing it for a lot of people,” he said.
As a senior starter, Darnell Terrell doesn’t have as much time to work on his drawings during the season. When he’s not studying, attending class or playing football, he’s usually trying to catch up on his sleep.
Still, his drawings are not far from him. He keeps several drafts from fifth and sixth grade in a ratty folder in his car. Some of the drawings are so old they’ve begun to fade and turn brown.
He also has several trunk cases full of old comic books back home in St. Louis that are wrapped in plastic to keep them in good condition.
“One day I might trade them in for money,” he said. “But I really don’t plan on it.”
When Darnell Terrell’s football career ends, he hopes to meet the man who created many of those comic books.
“One of my long-term goals is trying to meet Stan Lee, creator of the Marvel universe,” he said. “That would be something I would really appreciate.”
David Terrell said that like Lee, his nephew has the skills to become a star in the animated industry.
“Darnell’s very creative,” he said. “If he wanted, he’d probably have a future with companies like DreamWorks or Pixar because he’s just that dynamic. He’s just that good of an artist.”