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Scott Springer with UC Bearcat freshman Malik Vann
The Enquirer/Scott Springer

CORRYVILLE —  Fairfield Senior High School hosts its commencement June 9 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. However, a couple behemoths that started the fall with the class of 2018 have graduated, leaving the Route 4 area for early enrollment with their college football programs.

Offensive lineman Jackson Carman went south to Clemson in January, while defensive lineman Malik Vann began getting into college shape after the first of the year with Coach Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati Bearcats. By Signing Day in February, Carman and Vann had a month under their belts along with more muscle. Fairfield coach Jason Krause at the Greater Miami Conference signing festivities proudly shared a before and after picture of Vann as a Bearcat. Vann has even posted the transformation on Twitter.

The former Indian/current Bearcat has gone from just being bigger and better to adding more muscle and speed thanks to football strength coach Brady Collins. 

“It was a big adjustment seeing how bigger and stronger most of the guys on the team are,” Vann said of his January enrollment. “Coach Brady (Collins) is a young, fiery guy. They get the best results they can out of you.”

Vann credits UC seniors Marquise Copeland, Garrett Campbell (St. Xavier) and Cortez Broughton for helping him along the way. That (literal) power trio has answered Vann’s questions, told him when he was wrong and corrected him for the future.

Vann is listed at 6-4 and says he came to the Bearcats at 289 pounds. He’s currently at 268 and noticeably more fit. 

“I feel a lot better, a lot looser and a lot more nimble on my feet,” Vann said. “Not that I didn’t in high school, but since I got here I feel a lot better in my movements. Especially, strength-wise.”

On Fairfield’s line, Vann led the GMC in sacks with 6.5, had a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He had 31 tackles, 24 of those solo. He also was a special package fullback in goal-line situations, blocking or plowing do the end zone himself five times.

Formerly No. 7 at Fairfield, he has switched to No. 42 for the Bearcats. He did wear 42 as a high school freshman but switched to 7 for the last three seasons. His older brother Marquise, who played collegiately at Connecticut wore 42. 

The Vann family now can pretty much take a van to Malik’s games compared to trying to make the commute to Hartford, Connecticut for Huskies games.That played a big factor in choosing UC. He also has a head start on the college process that incoming freshmen his age will experience in a few months.   

“College really isn’t that bad unless you procrastinate and don’t do your work,” Vann said. “If you stay on top of everything you do, you’ll be fine and coast on with the rest of the guys.”

As for Coach Fickell, who continues to bring in local players who previously wouldn’t consider staying home. The second-year coach had a rough start to last season, but the Bearcats were able to post some victories late. He continues to preach to Vann and others to “finish all four quarters” and remain strong mentally and physically.

Players like La Salle’s Jarell White, who saw considerable action as the season progressed as a freshman, and Vann are core building blocks. Each has played a key part in helping recruit more local talent.

“He doesn’t look like the same guy even from the first day of practice to this day,” Fickell said of Vann. “He’s a very mature guy so he takes coaching very well whether it’s tough, it’s hard, it’s honest. We’ve seen his ability to grow from mistakes he’s made. That doesn’t happen always from a young guy. From practice one through practice eight you’ve seen a bigger jump from even the pictures you’ve seen him of the first three months and his body.”

Vann and several Bearcats with local ties will be on display when UC wraps up their spring work April 14 with an open practice at Nippert Stadium at 11:30 a.m.