Despite playing his last collegiate football game last December, you can still find senior Darion Fletcher on the turf at Malosky.
He’s helping to coach the younger defensive backs this spring.
The former standout in the Bulldog secondary hopes to return his whistle for football pads before too long. Fletcher is continuing to stay in shape with hopes of finding his way onto a National Football League team roster this year.
It’s a dream he’s had since he started playing the game.
"Since I was young, since I’ve been playing football, it’s definitely been a goal to play at that next level,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher has built up an impressive resume in his four-year career playing cornerback for the Bulldogs. This past season’s numbers were by far his best. He set a program record in pass breakups (17) while leading the defense in interceptions (2) and solo tackles (36).
“To have as many pass breakups as he’s had, that’s not by accident,” Mark Ellis, Fletcher’s longtime trainer, said. “Interceptions are often mistakes by the quarterback, but when you break a pass up that means it was a good pass and you have to be in the right spot.”
Ellis, who played defensive back at Temple University and is a former assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Minnesota Vikings, trained with Fletcher when he was in high school.
Since reconnecting with Fletcher after his college career to help him train for the NFL Regional Scouting Combine, Ellis believes that Fletcher is an NFL-ready defensive back.
“He’s every bit as good, if not better, than I thought he would be,” Ellis said. “He went to a great football program and he had great coaches.”
Fletcher recorded a 4.58 forty-yard dash in the March combine. He later said that he was satisfied with his numbers and that “he wouldn’t change a thing.”
While that figure may not exactly turn heads, he makes up for it with a unique skillset.
“His 40 time isn’t indicative of his playing speed,” Ellis said. “I know that a lot of corners that have displacing speed. But they don’t have his footwork, they don’t have his natural strength or his ability to comprehend routes.”
Of all the athletes he trains with, Ellis said that Fletcher is among the best in terms of his mindset.
“You have to have a certain mindset to be a professional athlete,” Ellis said. “He’s ready mentally, he’s tough (and) he’s strong. I truly believe his best football is ahead of him.”
Being a NCAA Division II athlete who played high school football in Minnesota, odds aren’t in his favor. As a result, Ellis will be helping to get Fletcher some exposure before the upcoming draft.
“I know somebody out there in the NFL needs him,” Ellis said. “I truly believe this kid could play right now.”
If he isn’t picked in the draft, Fletcher has an opportunity to sign with any team after it occurs, from April 28-30.
For now, Fletcher’s just playing the waiting game.
“I’m just continuing to work out in case I get that call,” Fletcher said. “Whenever I get a call from a different area code, I’m just like ‘Oh man, who is this,’ answering the phone all professional. It’s stressful but it’s all in God’s hands.”