Dylan Fairchild always believed he had what it took to be a college football player. He just didn’t know what kind.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Fairchild more than looks the part despite being just a junior. Before heading to the University of South Carolina with West Forsyth head coach Shawn Cahill for a camp in late June, he’d already received his first college offer from Jacksonville State, an FCS school in Alabama. Still, the question if he was good enough to play in a Power Five conference on Saturdays still lingered in his mind.
When South Carolina offensive line coach Eric Wolford saw him, that question had an easy answer. The Gamecocks put him through drills and faced him off with other future college athletes. Of course, Fairchild was young and inexperienced, but as Wolford made sure to tell Cahill, none of that seemed to matter.
‘He said, ‘Coach, he's out here dominating guys who have offers to places with only an hour's worth of work in the last year,’” Cahill said. “I just kind of chuckled and said, ‘Then he might be pretty good.’”
South Carolina was impressed enough to offer Fairchild on the spot. As Cahill recalled, “The kid turned into a 6-year-old at Christmas.” He hadn’t played more than five varsity games to that point, and he was already good enough for an SEC school. It was a confidence booster, and his big question heading into that June weekend had been answered, replaced with another, more conceptual one.
“I was just like, ‘Wow. This is where the journey starts,’” Fairchild said. “I was surprised and excited to get back to work. I came back that weekend and went straight to the gym. After South Carolina, I was like, ‘OK, I know I have the potential. How far can I go?’”
That question remains to be answered, but since that moment in Columbia, Fairchild has already garnered more attention, with Tennessee giving Fairchild his second SEC offer just two weeks ago. For now, though, Fairchild is looking to continue his growth as a player at West, both as a defensive lineman for the Wolverines and as an offensive lineman in preparation for his collegiate future.
Despite Fairchild’s apparent lack of game experience, South Carolina and Tennessee both saw potential in his measurables. Looking to the future, each of them saw glimpses of what they could do to further develop him.
“You look at his frame, and you can see they can put 40 pounds on that kid, and he's not going to be a fat kid,” Cahill said. “They can see that happening … He understands leverage, he's really strong. They can work him out for two or three hours doing drills and they can see that kind of stuff.”
And gaining leverage is key to Fairchild’s second sport, wrestling. While it’s a good offseason activity for linemen to participate in to stay in shape while developing their footwork and other skills, it’s much more than that to Fairchild. He’s seen considerable success on the mat, and as his football prospects have increased, his attention to wrestling hasn’t wavered.
“I knew I wanted to play football in college, but I made a commitment to (West wrestling coach Evan) Goff and the team, so I'm still serious about wrestling,” Fairchild said. “I haven't really been talking to any colleges about wrestling -- it's been mainly football for college.”
And in college, Fairchild will more than likely be primarily an offensive lineman, despite his current role with the Wolverines’ defense. Practically, though, he sees the chance as necessary.
“I love playing D-Line, but I think longevity-wise, if I'm able to go to the next level I think that would be at O-line and I think I would play longer as an O-lineman,” Fairchild said. “On the D-line you get beat up more and your hands get torn up.”
But despite all the glowing reviews from Fairchild’s potential college suitors, Cahill knows his potential future SEC player still has a lot to learn. If Fairchild can continue to progress the way Cahill thinks he can, though, he’s excited to see what he can bring to the Wolverines.
“When you watch him progress offensively and defensively, you can see where eventually he's going to get,” Cahill said. “He's so raw right now that sometimes he still reverts back to just brute strength and not technique.
“When the day comes when he gets all the technique down, he's going to be something special. We hope it happens when he's with us and not a year or two into college.”