DAMIR FAISON’S FRIDAY-NIGHT TRANSFORMATION

Vance High School’s football team is in the midst of a state title quest that will hinge heavily upon the play of junior defense end Damir Faison. The Cougars have plenty of star power but the energy source for their defense starts up front with Faison. With just one game separating Vance from the 4A state title game Faison is going to bring his game-changing power into the opposing backfield.

When you meet Damir Faison, a junior at Vance High School (Charlotte), you’re greeted with a broad smile. He’s excited to meet you. In fact, you quickly get the sense he’s excited most of the time. Faison is just one of those “energy guys.”

However, on autumn Friday nights when he takes the field with his Cougar teammates Faison changes. The energy remains, even increases, but gone is the smile. At least until after what is likely, based on past history, a Vance win.

”He’s a super nice guy off the field, but something just comes over him on Friday nights,” says Vance Head Coach Aaron Brand. “He doesn’t stop coming at you and as an offensive lineman you might think he’s going to take a play off this time and he just doesn’t.

”So physical and strong, and he has violent hands. He’s a violent football player; he hits hard, he runs fast, he’s relentless. I’m glad he’s on our team, first of all, because he just doesn’t take a break.”

Vance will be counting on Faison’s relentless nature as they work towards a 4A state championship in the North Carolina playoffs.

”What I bring Friday nights is my attitude, because I sense that if I have a good attitude and am intense it brings that to the team overall,” Faison says. “Getting after the passer. My first thing is how fast I can get off the ball, that’s the thought that goes through my mind.

”How intense and how hard can I come at them? That’s what I do every time; I’m thinking how fast I can get off this ball. I think that’s one of the biggest things my opponents and everyone around the game thinks it how fast am I going to come off the ball now.”

”I don’t know of anybody in this city that gets after the passer better than he does, and that’s not just because he’s here. I’ve talked to (other area coaches) and nobody has the start that Damir has,” Brand adds. “I’ve coached a bunch of them and he’s about as good as I’ve had as far as timing the snap, beating his blocker initially, and then his pursuit of the quarterback is tremendous. That’s why he was runner-up for defensive player of the year in the conference.

”He’s pushed pretty good at home about his desire and his effort and it pays off for him. It shows up every Friday night and it shows up through the week. I’ve got him every day and I see him about as much as I see any kid, because I’ve got him in the weight room and have him at practice. He just brings it every day.”

In short, Faison jumps off the field at people when they see him play. That coaching staff at Appalachian State was no different. So enamored with Faison’s skills and attitude was Mountaineer Defensive Line Coach Mark Ivey, that App State offered Faison a scholarship even with another year of high school still to play.

After making a game day trip to Appalachian on November 5th and receiving the scholarship offer the next day, Faison responded with his verbal commitment to the Mountaineers just two days later.

”I think it was the whole fit, as far as being there, seeing the actual coaching hands-on, and also how much of an interest they took in me,” Faison says of his decision. “A lot of times schools will take an interest in you as a football player but they really don’t get to know you as a person. When App State actually got to know who I am, that made a big impression on me.”

Faison’s game day experience gave him a new perspective on the program that helped seal his decision.

”Just how aggressive and how hard their defense plays; I could see myself thriving in that environment,” Faison said. “How hands on Coach Ivey was with his players. I could really see myself there. Before I even entered the facilities people knew who I was and I found that amazing.”

Faison also fell prey to another App State game tradition.

”When the one side of the stadium chants, ‘App’ and the other side said, ‘State,’ I just thought that was awesome,” he recalled, his face featuring that Faison smile.

But, as Coach Brand shares, Faison’s interest in Appalachian State began much earlier than November.

”(App State) was an environment Damir could see himself in if there was no such thing as football,” said Brand. “ I noticed that part of it when I took about 20-25 kids up there on a school bus two years ago, which was Damir’s first time up there, and (former Offensive Line Coach) Dwayne Ledford just treated us like kings. And, Coach (Scott) Satterfield and those guys just treated us great.

”So, Damir wasn’t the only one that fell in love with App that day but he is the one that App fell in love with.”

Coach Brand encourages all of his players, Faison included, to make their college decisions based on everything about a university except for football.

”We talk about fit and what’s best for them as individuals, and we take football out of the equation. What if you get hurt? What if football is no longer what you do? Can you survive in this environment without football?” Brand says.

”This was an ideal fit for him if you took football away. Now, there is a great football environment and I know he loves the fact that App is not going to lose football anytime soon. I think that the game, the students, the culture that he experienced on game day sewed it up for him. He was already talking about App, so this was not just a knee-jerk reaction. It’s something that he’s thought about and been waiting on a little bit.”

Of course, it’s a long way until 2018 signing day and a player of Faison’s caliber is going to continue receiving plenty of recruiting attention from other programs. But, Faison makes it clear that his commitment to App State is heartfelt.

I’m fully committed to Appalachian State. The options are still there, they are still coming, but I think App State is honestly the best place for me,” Faison says.

“From what I’ve looked into App State has one of the best business schools and that’s what I’m interested in, and I found that to be a good fit. It’s a smaller school and I feel like if I went to a bigger school I would get overwhelmed by how many people there are, so I just enjoy that small-town feel.

”I’m not going to cancel anything out, because something may happen. I’m going to keep options open but I’m 100 percent committed to Appalachian State.”

Faison and Vance face Page High School in the 4A state playoff semifinals on December 9th.


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