Ever since putting on pads for the first time as a seventh grader, Ridge View High wide receiver Naquan Fleming's success could be considered mild, at best.
The senior hauled in 33 passes and four touchdowns during his sophomore and junior years, remaining in the shadow of Ridge View's recent standout receivers like Brian Quick, Brandon King and Greg Adams.
This year, however, Fleming has caught 31 passes for a 728 yards and eight touchdowns in six games. When asked about Fleming's emergence as one of the state's most dangerous receivers, Ridge View coach Raymond Jennings said that a mix of facets have contributed. "Well, we've had some great receivers over the past five years, Jennings said. "Last season we had Greg Adams, a tremendous receiver, and our opponents were focused on shutting him down, so Naquan was somewhat forced to wait in the wing to be our go-to guy. But (Fleming) took that as a challenge and he worked extremely hard. Now that hard work is paying off."
Pushed by his coaches, and realizing that he was nearing the end of his high school football career, Fleming started to take things more seriously. "During the off-season I took a different approach and worked mainly on my weaknesses rather than my strengths," Fleming said. "I knew the offense would be counting on me a lot more since we lost some good players, so I tried to work hard to prepare myself for this year."
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Jennings believes Fleming has just scratched the surface of his potential.
"What you see from Naquan is raw talent, and I think he's only going to get better," Jennings said. "He certainly hasn't reached his plateau as far as what he's capable of doing."
Opposing teams have put an emphasis on keeping the ball out of Fleming's hands, Jennings said.
"There were a couple of games this season that we couldn't get the ball to him," Jennings said. "In our recent games, teams have started putting double and even sometimes triple coverage on him. So I think it says a lot about how good this young man can be when he put up those kinds of numbers in essentially only three games."
According to Jennings, the Blazers' 6-foot-1, 170 pound receiver has run sub-4.5 second 40-yard dashes at each of the combine events he has attended.
"He's a tremendously conditioned athlete and he looks great on paper," Jennings said. "He's got some height at 6-1, 4.5 speed, and an incredible vertical leap. But the important thing is NaQuan has learned how to transition those attributes onto the football field to make himself a better football player."
Just as Fleming has come to learn his role on the football field, he also knows the job he has to play at home, being the eldest child in a single-parent household.
"I've always believed that family comes first, and without my family none of the success that I've had would be possible. Being the oldest, I have to lead by example, and that goes for the football field as well."
Western Carolina, Presbyterian, Gardner Webb, South Carolina State, Akron, Duke, Virginia Tech, are just a few of the schools that have shown interest in Fleming's football talents. Going to a Football Bowl Subdivision school for college is something he aspires to do.
Fleming says that breaking the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season is important to him, but he'd trade that for a state championship in a heartbeat.
Fleming is on pace to graduate from high school at the conclusion of this academic year, which would make him one of the first in his family to do so.
"First thing that I want to do is get my high school diploma. Also, I want to go to a Division I college and get a good education," Fleming said