Wake up at 6 am. Breakfast from 6:15-6:35. Attend morning colors, then attend class. Drills at 4:00, Athletics at 5:15. Then eat dinner, do homework, go to bed, and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.
That's the daily schedule of a student at Fork Union Military Academy, a school that has turned numerous young high school graduates into strong, disciplined, and capable men and athletes.
"Coach [John] Shuman does an unbelievable job of the development of young guys," said Virginia Tech offensive line coach Vance Vice this spring. "One thing that I can guarantee when I get guys out of there is that they have seen hard and they’ve been through tough. That’s probably the biggest characteristics I gained from those guys."
Many times, this disciplined schedule is exactly what young prospects need in order to reach their full potential. One player that has certainly benefited from his postgraduate semester at Fork Union is Christian Darrisaw.
As a Recruit
Out of high school, almost all of the nation's top programs overlooked Darrisaw. In fact, Virginia Tech was the only Power 5 team to officially offer him. Still, Justin Fuente holds that the staff saw something special in him from the beginning.
"Obviously, he’s a talented young man. We felt like that was the case when recruiting him, even though, I don’t know if much has been made of this or not, but he wasn’t much of a highly recruited guy, but we really felt like he has some good tools," Fuente said at Monday's press conference.
While Coach Fuente was impressed from the beginning, he still knew that sending Darrisaw to Fork Union for a semester was the right decision. This was not an indictment on his talent level. Many of the Hokies most successful players, such as Steven Peoples and Yosuah Nijman, also spent time at FUMA. Rather, this was an opportunity for Darrisaw to develop without having to burn a year of collegiate eligibility.
Rise to Starting Role
Christian Darrisaw officially came to Blacksburg this spring, and he continued to fly under the radar. While the coaches mentioned his name a couple of times, most people did not see him playing a huge roll in 2018.
That is, until September 3rd. After all the talk leading up to the opener about the emergence of Silas Dzansi, it was Darrisaw who saw the majority of the minutes at left tackle in Tallahassee.
Darrisaw was impressive in his first start, holding defensive end Brian Burns in check for pretty much the entire game.
"Candidly, the fact we played a true freshman at left tackle and we are not answering questions about why we gave up 25 sacks, I think he did a pretty darn good job against that defensive line," said Fuente
after the game. "The moment wasn't too big for him."
That has become a theme for Darrisaw through six games this season: no moment is too big. In a huge conference road game at Duke, he had his best performance of the season.
While Darrisaw did have a pivotal ineligible receiver call
go against him in the Notre Dame game, that call was borderline at best.
What is even more impressive is the way that he was able to move on from that mistake and still play a good game against the Fighting Irish. The highlight of his game came at the expensive of Alohi Gilman, whom Darrisaw absolutely obliterated when Gilman attempted to blitz through the gap on a play that will likely be on his highlight tapes for years to come.
Continuing to Improve
After last weekend's game against UNC, the coaching staff had more praise for Darrisaw. Fuente mentioned that while he has been battling through injury at times this season, he has remained tough.
"We’ve been most pleased with his maturity level, his toughness level," said Fuente. "He’s mature, he’s another one of those guys who is wise beyond his years."
Darrisaw's latest honor is being named to both the ESPN and 247 Sports
Midseason Freshman All America teams. He is probably the least likely of anyone on the list, as 247's Composite ranking listed him as the 1,848th overall recruit in his high school class.
Luckily, Christian Darrisaw has never cared about people overlooking him, and he does not plan to start now. From, Riverdale Baptist High School to Fork Union Military Academy to Virginia Tech, Darrisaw's maturity and work ethic have not gone unnoticed. Now, he has put himself into a position as a freshman to be key contributor down the stretch and gain even more respect nationally.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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