Former Little Rock Central star Freddie Fairchild would have much rather been playing outside linebacker at the University of Arkansas last season than at Hargrave Military Academy.
But after signing with the Razorbacks in 2004 and having to detour to the Chatham (Va.) school, he was determined to make the most of it so he would be a better player, better student and better man when he did arrive in Fayetteville.
"It was a big change, adjusting to the military regimen and all the discipline that a place like this offers a young man," Fairchild said. "But I learn the value of study skills, the value of using your time wisely, how to become responsible and how important it is to push yourself both on and off the field if you ever want to amount to something."
Fairchild (6-3, 215, 4.42), one of 20 players or so who will be on official visits this weekend to Arkansas, had a great season with 53 tackles, 8 for lost yardage, 3 sacks and a pair of interceptions.
He noted those numbers came against much better competition than he has seen in high school, where he had a team-leading 163 tackles back in 2003 and a school-record 21 in a single game.
"Playing against the junior varsity teams of schools like Army and Navy and Virginia Tech was just wonderful for me," Fairchild said. "It was a step up in the speed of the game and gave me a taste of what it is going to be like on the college level."
Fairchild arrived at Hargrave at 205 pounds and played at 215 during the season. He is projected to leave Hargrave at 225.
"They have a very regimented schedule of nutrition and weight lifting after the season that is able to put good weight and strength on you," Fairchild said. "The college coaches love it because they have had great success with hitting the target weights they set for you. The fact that there is nothing to do here in this out of the way town and we can't go anywhere is perfect for you to just lift, condition and study."
Hargrave Military Academy assistant coach Joey Sulkowski says Arkansas is getting a star.
"He really played well this season and is just an amazing pure athlete," Sulkowski said. "He's bulked up with some muscle while he's been here hitting the weights and eating the right three meals a day. He's going to have a great career at Arkansas."
Scout.com recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy is also a fan of Fairchild, a player he thought was a shining star on the day he saw him play with numerous other D-1 prospects on the field.
"He has good speed and a nose for the ball," Kennedy said. "Makes plays from sideline to sideline and behind the line of scrimmage. He has excellent closing speed and misses very few tackles. When I went to watch Hargrave against Fork Union, he was the best player on the field that day." Fairchild, who will be visiting this weekend along with current Central prospects Kevin Thornton (6-2, 190, 4.6) and Antwain Robinson (6-1, 235, 4.7), certainly fits the profile that new UA defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is looking for in outside linebackers.
"I want guys who look like basketball players and are going to be able to run and make plays," Herring said. "We can put weight on them. I want those 6-2 to 6-4 guys that are 220 that you can make 250 and can really run and play."
That's similar to the philosophy he has on inside linebackers and defensive ends as well.
"Maybe we can't get the true inside linebackers that are already 6-4, 250, but maybe we can get guys that can grow into that," Herring continued. "Maybe we can't get the finished 6-4, 280-pound defensive end. But maybe we can get somebody who can really run and grow into that. That's my belief."
Fairchild, who plans to major in architecture and graphic design, said Arkansas coaches have stayed in contact with him throughout the year and have told him to be ready to come to play and even start.
"They've told me they love the way I can run like a safety and hit like a freight train," Fairchild said. "I've learned a lot down here about taking the proper angles and they done a lot on individual work to help me develop. Arkansas' coaches have told me they have big plans for me to start if I come work hard and pick things up right away."
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