Starkville High School’s David Fair Jr., shown in a 2011 jamboree game, suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against Tupelo High last year. This season, he tore the ACL in his same knee against Madison Central. This time, though, he didn’t let the injury force him to the sideline. Photo by: Dispatch File Buy this photo.
November 28, 2012 9:52:44 AM
JACKSON -- Power of persuasion has a special meaning to David Fair Jr.
It's not surprising considering how much Fair Jr. loves the game of football. After suffering his third knee injury and facing the possibility of having to give up the something that is such a big part of his life, Fair Jr. turned on the charm.
But it takes a special resolve to convince your father to let you do something he doesn't want you to do.
Like every other obstacle Fair Jr. has faced, though, he overcame the initial "No" from his father, David Fair Sr., and kept trying.
Think of his perseverance and persuasion as strong as a swarm generated by a defensive end focused on wreaking havoc on the quarterback.
It was only after Fair Jr. received permission from his father to continue to play football with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his knee that he was able to re-join the Starkville High School football team and push it on its way to a return trip to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A State title game.
Starkville (11-3) will get that chance at 7 p.m. Saturday when it takes on Pascagoula at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.
Looking back to when he suffered the injury in the second week of the season against Madison Central, Fair Jr. smiles when talking about how he wore down his father and gained approval to continue his senior season.
"I was devastated," Fair Jr. said. "I just sat there (in the doctor's office) and was thinking, 'This is it.' He said, 'We have an option. If you want to play ...' I was like, 'I want to do it.' "
Fair Jr. said there is no more damage he can do because his ACL is gone. He said the doctor told him he could play if he could stand the pain. Fair Jr. knew then that he would be back, even as the doctor cautioned him that he had to get the OK from his father.
"My dad was like, 'No,'" Fair Jr. said. "I just begged him and begged him and begged him and finally convinced him and he was on it, too."
Fair Jr. credits Christ for allowing him to keep going. He also thanked all of the doctors, therapists, and support staff members for helping him through the process. Those professionals didn't play a role in helping Fair Jr. convince his father. After a week, Fair Jr. said he convinced his father.
"I did (think I would be able to wear him down) because it is football," Fair Jr. said of his father, who played football at Mississippi State University from 1987-90. "He loves the game, but as a parent I am sure he wouldn't want me to hurt myself more. With him hearing it from the doctor rather than me, it was OK."
Fair Jr., a 6-foot, 215-pounder, is fifth on the team in tackles (38 solo, 67 total). He is second on the team with six sacks and has four tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and two safeties. He is part of a starting defense that features six seniors five juniors.
Starkville High football coach Jamie Mitchell said Fair Jr. helped set the tone for the season when he returned to the field after re-tearing his ACL in the second game of the season against Madison Central.
"There is not a tougher kid in our locker room than David Fair," Mitchell said. "He is a ferocious competitor, a phenomenal leader. If their is anybody you want to take to a bar room fight, it is David Fair. They don't come any finer than he is. He has a heart as big as this room (referring to the showcase room in the center of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum).
"Maybe there are some other players who are doing what he is doing, but he is playing on a knee that most people couldn't walk on and playing at a high, high level."
Mitchell said Fair Jr. has followed practice but hasn't participated due to the injury. He said the goal is to keep Fair Jr. as healthy as possible for game day. Like with other players who have to sit out due to injury and watch, Mitchell feels seeing the game from a different perspective has helped him become a better player.
"I think he has learned a lot from having to practice the way he has to practice," Mitchell said. "He has to line up behind the guy who is getting the practice reps. He has to learn by seeing and not necessarily doing at practice, but he has adjusted really well. It is kind of funny to watch practice film because you see him lined up right behind that guy who is getting that rep and he takes every step. It is just no contact for him."
Mitchell credits Fair Jr. for making the decision. He said he talked in depth with Fair Jr. about his options and made sure the final choice was up to Fair Jr. and his parents.
"David never backed up an inch," Mitchell said. "He would have been out there on crutches if that is what they told him he had to do."
Starkville High School quarterback Gabe Myles, who missed two games in the regular season with an ankle injury, said Fair Jr. has been an example of perseverance to all of the players.
"That is heart," Myles said. "That just shows how much this team means to him and how much football means to him. No matter what pain he goes through he is on a mission, and that mission is to help Starkville High School win a state championship. I gain strength from that because I know whatever I am going through this guy is playing with a torn ACL, and he is feeling that every play. If I am just feeling something minor, I can keep going because I have somebody on the other side of the ball who is playing with a torn ACL."
Fair Jr. said the latest injury has helped him appreciate the game even more. He feels everything he has faced this season has made him more unselfish. It has humbled him to persevere and has made him proud how his teammates have responded and fought through adversity to make a return trip to Jackson.
"I thank God," Fair Jr. said. "I can't remember who I told, but that is why I think He allowed me to finish this year. The same thing happened last year in the third game of the season. It happened one game earlier this season, but He said, 'You can finish,' and He helped me do it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.