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Football talent, next to
tobacco, is the leading crop in the South Carolina town of Lake City.
Located just south of
Florence and populated by about 7,000 residents, Lake City's football
honor roll includes former NFL All-Pro defensive end Derrick Burgess,
ex-NFL receiver Derrick Faison, Clemson linebacker alum Scotty Cooper
and current South Carolina running back Shon Carson. All were born in
Lake City and all but Burgess played for Lake City High School.
Devaris Brunson grew up
with dreams of becoming part of that Lake City tradition, and he's
already done so in two very important ways.
First, he became a school
record holder as a junior linebacker in 2011 by setting a single-season
mark for tackles with 172. Second, Brunson has secured an opportunity to
play at the major college level by accepting a scholarship offer from
East Carolina back in late June.
"Everybody grows up here
playing football,'' Brunson said. "On Friday nights, everybody in town
shows up at the Lake City games. I was just like everybody else. I came
to games every Friday night, and the next day I'd be out in the back
yard with my friends pretending to play for Lake City. You dream about
following guys like Scotty Cooper and Shon Carson, and filling their
Brunson didn't achieve
that goal over night. He was one of the smaller kids in his neighborhood
and wasn't a natural athlete.
But his love for the game
helped Brunson develop a work ethic that continues today. His hard work
and a growth spurt as he hit middle school carried Brunson to the next
"I sort of grew into the
game,'' Brunson said. "I knew I wasn't the biggest or best player when I
started. But I just kept working hard because I love playing the game so
much. Even now, I try to get better every time I'm on the field.''
The passion paid off when
Brunson made the Lake City varsity and became a starting linebacker as a
"I thought I'd be playing
on the JVs, so it was a surprise,'' Brunson said. "But the coaches came
up to me in practice one day and said, 'You've been working hard and
deserve to come up on the next level and play varsity.'
"I was still learning and
catching onto things. But I wound up doing pretty well.''
The 6-foot, 202-pounder,
who has been timed at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, blossomed into a
star last season when, in addition to recording a school-record number
of tackles, he had 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Brunson also forced
eight fumbles and had an interception.
The performance earned
Brunson a spot on the Florence Morning News All-Pee Dee team and a berth
on WPDE's All-Zone squad. He was also named all state by Rivals.com.
During the winter months,
Brunson also made a name for himself on the wrestling mat. Competing in
the 189-pound weight class, he advanced all the way to state
Brunson has gotten off to
a slow start on the football field this season, collecting just 14
tackles through Lake City's first three games. But that hasn't kept the
college recruiters away.
Although he remains
committed to East Carolina, Brunson recently took an unofficial visit to
N.C. State. The Wolfpack is the only other major college program to have
extended a scholarship offer.
"East Carolina has my
commitment at the moment,'' Brunson said. "It would take a lot for me to
switch my commitment. But I'm still open to other schools.''
If Brunson sticks with the
Pirates, they'll be getting a fast, aggressive outside linebacker who
makes plays all over the field.
"I have good speed and I
like contact,'' Brunson said. "But I also play smart. I take what my
coaches tell me and apply it when I'm on the football field. I think
that helps me because I'm usually a step ahead when the play starts.''
Brunson believes he could
contribute quickly, if he winds up at ECU.
"I think I could help them
out pretty early,'' Brunson said. "Playing early is something that's
important to me. I want to make an impact very quickly.''