When he’s in class at Vance High, Miles Dorn is just like any other student: a little quiet, even mild-mannered.
But Cougars head coach Keith Wilkes said something happens to Dorn when he straps on the shoulder pads.
“He don’t really say a lot,” Wilkes said. “But when he gets on the football field, he turns into a different kid.”
It’s the “different kid” Dorn who has emerged from a large group of underclassmen to be a key player for a rebuilding Vance program this season.
“We’ve all talked about this,” said Dorn, a 6-foot-2 sophomore. “We’re always saying, ‘It’s our year; we’ve got to step up.’ We’ve got to do big things on the field, especially if we want to advance (in the playoffs).”
Dorn, the Cougars’ starting safety and backup quarterback, came up big for Vance in its season-opening game against Berry Academy, picking off two passes in a 36-14 win.
“That first game – before the game, my nerves were really going,” Dorn said. “But once you hit the field, hear the band playing and see everybody in the stands ... it just motivates me to do the best I can.”
What’s even more important – and, Wilkes said, “it caught me by surprise” – Dorn has become one of the Cougars’ more vocal leaders on and off the field.
“He hasn’t been a vocal type of guy,” Wilkes said. “But the other night (against Berry) he was talking a lot. I was kind of amazed by that, but he encourages his teammates by doing that.
“He’s a kid you can definitely depend on. The other kids know that, and know that when he gets on that field, he’s gonna give his teammates his all.”
Said Dorn: “Friday night, when I get on the field, something just comes out of me – a different me, I guess.”
Part of that may have come from Dorn’s family.
His father, Torin Dorn, played at North Carolina, then played for seven years as an NFL defensive back for the Raiders and Rams. He retired after the 1996 season.
While Miles’ older brother, Torin Jr., opted to pursue basketball – he’s Vance’s starting guard and is being recruited by several Division I teams – Miles stuck with football.
“I’ve always loved football, ever since I was a little kid,” said Miles, who’s also being coached by his father at Vance: Torin Sr. is a volunteer defensive backs coach. “I’ve always dreamed of playing in the NFL.
“Having my father out there has been big. He’s teaching all of us things that most defensive back coaches wouldn’t know. Most kids don’t have the opportunity to get the kind of coaching that he’s providing.”
Said Wilkes: “We started looking at him (Torin Jr.) last year. You can just see a kid with athletic ability, more than a lot of the other guys. You can just see the raw talent. If he stays focused over the next three years … he can definitely be a Division 1 player.”
But Wilkes said the emergence of Vance’s underclassmen was to be expected.
The Cougars lost 33 seniors to graduation from a team that finished 9-4 last season and made it to the second round of the state 4AA playoffs. This year’s team has only five (out of 52) players with more than a year’s varsity experience.
“When you’re building a program, you’re always going to lose great players,” said Wilkes, who came over to Vance from Winston-Salem Carver two years ago. “You expect the guys coming in behind them to fill in the spaces.
“But we’re really leaning on our sophomores this year. We’ve probably got six or seven 10th-graders starting. I really feel good about that class, though. We’ve got some really special kids there.”