Usually, when a high school football player moves to Bradenton, Fla., he’s already considered to be among the nation’s most elite prospects.
IMG Academy brings the best of the best to its plush campus and world-class facilities. It’s where 5-stars go to work on their craft with other 5-stars before making a quick stop in college, en route to the NFL.
That wasn’t the case for Deshaun Fenwick, who moved to Bradenton to make something of his high school career, to give himself a better chance at succeeding in life.
Before his sophomore year in high school, Fenwick took the road less traveled to Bradenton.
The path began during a phone conversation with John Ferritto, a little league football coach who moved to the area a few years earlier from Louisville, Ky. Ferritto invited Fenwick to join him in Bradenton and experience life as a high school football player in the state of Florida, with an eye on landing a scholarship to play college football.
“It was not a very good school, especially not at football,” Fenwick said of his school in Louisville.
“I mean, I really was trying hard to make something of myself. … [Ferritto] was talking to me one day and he said, ‘You need to move down. That school you’re at right now isn’t going to do anything for you. You’re not going to go to college from there, so you need to think about moving down.’”
Fenwick finished his freshman season, visited Ferritto in Florida and elected to make the move, but in order for it to happen, Fenwick’s grandfather, Jay Greer, had to relinquish custody to Ferritto.
Everything came together just in time for Fenwick to move from Louisville and enroll at Braden River High School in time for his sophomore season.
With this tape, you shall run
Ferritto trusted Fenwick’s ability to play running back. There was a time, however, when Ferritto didn’t trust Fenwick’s ability in one important part of the position.
“He came over to our [little league] team, because the team that he was on didn’t let him run the ball, wouldn’t let him run the ball,” Ferritto said, “So I let him run the ball, but he fumbled all the time, so I literally had to tape the ball to his hand in practice, just to make sure he wouldn’t fumble the ball, so we could run plays.”
Fast-forward to 2015, Fenwick’s sophomore season, when he rushed for 630 yards and 9 touchdowns. At the end of his career at Braden River, Fenwick ran for 2,786 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 538 yards and 7 scores.
Two months ago, the former 3-star running back recruit enrolled at South Carolina, to begin his career as a college running back.
“Honestly, John’s done so much for me,” Fenwick said. “He put me in the position I was [in]. … He gave me the opportunity to make something of myself and I just took advantage of it.”
Bumps along the way
As would be the case with a lot of high school sophomores, packing up and leaving wasn’t easy for Fenwick, even though the surroundings he left behind in Louisville weren’t always the best.
“It’s hard moving away from your family,” he said. “I moved down there with a coach. I didn’t have any other family near the vicinity of Florida, so people don’t understand how hard that is, being away from your family.
“FaceTiming is good and talking on the phone is good, but you can’t spend time with your family. I had to adjust to a whole new set of people and that transition is rough. I wouldn’t put it past anyone, but if you want to become something, I would highly recommend it.
“It will make you a man.”
To make matters a little more challenging, the football was on a completely different level than anything he’d experienced.
“It was a hard transition getting used to the football aspects of everything, the speed of the game,” Fenwick said. “I mean, the play calling, the game, the game style, it was pretty tough to adjust to, [but] I got it down, mastered it.”
Now he gets to try his hand at mastering the SEC.