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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Monday, January 30, 2012

By Sammy Batten

Pirates add Robeson Co. linebacker

One-on-One with...
(ECU Media Relations File Photos)

Bonesville features writer Ron Cherubini conducted one-on-one interviews with East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (left) and Pirate defensive boss Brian Mitchell (right). Links to the wide-ranging Q&A sessions:

Lincoln Riley Q&A
Brian Mitchell Q&A

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

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East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill went back to his roots to add the latest prospect to the Pirates recruiting Class of 2012.

Drayvon Fairley, who plays at Red Springs High School just 14 miles West of McNeill's hometown of Lumberton, gave his verbal commitment to ECU during an official visit to Greenville over the weekend. Fairley is expected to be outside linebacker in the Pirates' 3-4 defensive alignment.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder had been favoring ECU since an unofficial visit to campus back in October when he watched the Pirates defeat Tulane at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. But a scholarship wasn't extended until Saturday evening when McNeill personally made the offer during dinner.

“When they said they wanted me to be part of their family, I said, 'Yes,''' Fairley said Sunday afternoon.

Fairley had received scholarship offers from smaller college programs like Charlotte, Norfolk State, Fayetteville State and Brevard. But first-year Red Springs head coach George Coltharp said more major schools would have been interested if Fairley had the adequate exposure.

“He didn't really get to do the (summer) camp circuit because I got the job at Red Springs so late,'' said Coltharp, who was hired at Red Spring last May. “So there wasn't a lot of preseason interest because of the coaching change. In the recruiting game, if you don't have offers by August of September, you're behind the eight ball.

“But once we got some film on him doing things we wanted him to do, we started sending film out. East Carolina started looking at him, but it looked like they were going to be filled up as far as linebackers were concerned with this class. We talked in December with (ECU offensive line) Coach (Brandon) Jones and he said, 'Coach, right now he's on the board, but we're not sure (about an offer).' But the next week he called back and said the defensive coordinator had looked at the film and it just blossomed from there.''

Both Coltharp and Fairley said McNeill's connection to Robeson County helped the recruitment. “I think Ruff and mom knew some of the same people,'' Coltharp said.

“I knew he grew up here,'' Fairley said. “It made me feel good because in a way he's giving back to the country he's from. A lot of colleges don't know about Red Springs because it's a small place. But Coach McNeill knows there is talent here.''

McNeill signed another Robeson County player last February in linebacker Joseph Blanks. But Blanks was never able to enroll in school for academic reasons. Fairley is already qualified academically, so he'll officially be the first Robeson County player to join the Pirates under McNeill.

Fairley has lived most of his life in Red Springs, a town of about 3,500. Red Springs High School has had stretches of success in football under former coaches like local legend Clyde Parrish and most recently under David Lovette, who now coaches at Gray's Creek in the Fayetteville area. Under Parrish back in the 1980s, the Red Devils produced fullback Victor McBryde, who also signed with ECU.

But Fairley didn't begin his football career until moving away briefly to Scotland County.

“I moved to Scotland and played on the JV team there,'' Fairley said. “I wanted to move up to the varsity, but before that could happen we moved back to Red Springs.''

Fairley joined the Red Springs varsity as a sophomore as a defensive end and earned team most valuable defensive player honors. He earned All-Three Rivers 1-A/2-A Conference honors as a junior and senior, and made the All-Robeson County team selected by The Robesonian newspaper.

Coltharp moved Fairley from defensive end to outside linebacker early in the 2011 season. The result was 132 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback sacks and six forced fumbles by Fairley.

The long, lean Fairley, who has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, reminds Coltharp of two other great players he previously helped coach as an assistant at E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville.

“He reminds me of Aaron Curry and Jason Hunter,'' Coltharp said. “He has the same build, a long kid who runs well. The first time I saw him I immediately saw him being like Aaron or Jason. Then he put on the pads and it was evident he liked contact. He's just an explosive guy who likes to hit.''

Curry went on to win the Butkus Award given annually to the nation's top linebacker while he was at Wake Forest. He was then a first-round draft pick by the NFL Seattle Seahawks and was traded this season to the Oakland Raiders.

Hunter was a defensive end for back-to-back national championship teams at Appalachian State, and now plays for the NFL Denver Broncos.

Fairley will officially join the ECU family Wednesday by initialing a binding letter of intent on college football's national signing day. He'll immediately begin preparing for a freshman year in which he plans to be on the field in some capacity with the Pirates.

“I don't like sitting out too well,'' Fairley said. “I don't want to be redshirted. If I work hard, I know for a fact there will be playing time.''

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01/30/2012 12:53:00 AM


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