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Football: UL linebacker makes unexpected contribution

Fleming makes quick transition as a true freshman for Cajuns

UL’s coaching staff had high hopes for Grant Fleming when practice opened in August, and the St. Thomas More product more than lived up to those hopes during the first month of the season.

But last weekend – that was above and beyond the call of duty.

Most football teams don’t ask true freshmen to play 80 defensive snaps in a game, especially at linebacker. Even fewer would also have him on virtually every special team.

"We figure he was on the field for about 100 plays," said UL defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Kevin Fouquier of last Saturday’s contest against North Texas. "That’s just a crazy number, to have someone out there that much."

But the Cajuns needed Fleming, and his numbers – seven tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup – don’t tell the full story of his contributions in the 38-29 Sun Belt Conference win over the Mean Green.

"We knew when we signed him that he was going to be one heck of a special player," said Cajun coach Rickey Bustle. "He was good enough right off the bat to be put on some of our special teams, and now he’s on all of them."

He’s also taken a regular slot at linebacker, and ranks third on the squad in tackles with 34 through six games. Against North Texas, though, he saw even more action since the linebacker corps was without regular Mark Risher with a shoulder injury.

Not bad for a guy whose only hope was to make a contribution in his first collegiate season.

"The coaches told me that they wouldn’t have a problem in playing a true freshman," Fleming said. "That’s one of the big reasons I wanted to come here. But it is kind of surprising … I never thought much about starting this year."

What the 6-foot-3 former Cougar standout thought mostly about during the summer and early fall was adjusting to a safety position. That’s where he began fall drills, but after one week Cajun coaches made the shift toward the line of scrimmage.

"He’s got so much speed," Fouquier said, "and people in this league really try to spread people out with their offenses. It really helps to have a guy with his athletic ability at linebacker – it doesn’t matter there if you’re a freshman, a sophomore or a senior. If you can play there, we’ll play you."

Fouquier was hired in late December, and by that time Fleming was already sold on the UL program.

"He was one of the first kids I saw on film when I was hired," Fouquier said. "When I saw him, I said to somebody that he’s what you’re looking for at linebacker."

"He’s a very unselfish player," Bustle said, "and he’s obviously got a knack for getting to the ball."

It didn’t take Fleming long to make his switches, both from prep to college and from safety to linebacker.

"There’s definitely a huge difference in how fast everything is and how complex it is," he said. "But once you learn the scheme and get used to the speed of the game, it’s just football."

Fleming got to experience his first conference victory, and his first collegiate win, last weekend even though he had to play all those snaps. This Saturday, he’ll be in his first conference road game.

"It’s not any different," he said. "We’re all looking at it like any other game. We’re 1-1 in conference and we know we can still be very competitive in the league."

  • Full name Grant Alexander Fleming … Age 18, born Jan. 25, 1989 … Son of Dallas and Catherine Fleming … Has five brothers – Beau, Jordan, Stuart, Paxton and Matthew.



  • Has ranked in UL’s top six in tackles in all six games during his freshman season.


  • Had 35 solo tackles and 55 assists as senior at St. Thomas More along with six interceptions, 12 pass breakups and five blocked kicks.


  • All-District 5-4A selection three straight seasons and earned Class 4A All-State honors as senior last fall.


  • Finished high school career with 263 tackles, 16 pass breakups and 14 interceptions


    Solo Asst Total

    South Carolina 4 0 4

    Ohio 1 3 4


  • McNeese St. 3 2 5

    #Troy 3 3 6

    Central Florida 7 1 8

    ?North Texas 5 2 7

    Totals 23 11 34


  • -one interception

    #-forced one fumble

    ?-recovered one fumble