High School Sports

West Charlotte lineman Marlon Dunlap remains humble despite recruiting blitz

West Charlotte's Marlon Dunlap is a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle.
West Charlotte's Marlon Dunlap is a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

West Charlotte defensive lineman Marlon Dunlap has multiple Division I scholarship offers and was named to the N.C. Shrine Bowl team this week.

He’s so good North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora plans to load up a helicopter with Tar Heels staff and land on West Charlotte’s campus Friday night before the Lions’ homecoming game against Vance, sources confirmed.

“He may be the best at his position in the area,” Vance coach Aaron Brand said of Dunlap, a tackle. “He’s a humble kid, too, but he’s got great, great size. He’s tenacious and he plays really, really hard.”

Brand also raved about Dunlap’s quick feet, saying they make him hard to block and separate him from peers.

Dunlap, who is 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, said there’s a reason for his quickness and agility.

“I played fullback and running back in Pop Warner. I pushed myself to be fast,” Dunlap said. “Of course, I was big, so eventually they made me play line, but I wanted to play skill positions like everybody else did.”

Dunlap – who has scholarship offers from North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, among others – excelled as a running back. But he’s become a high school star playing full time along the defensive line. Last season, he had 70 tackles, 19 for a loss and eight sacks. He made first-team all-conference in the MECKA 4A, arguably North Carolina’s toughest conference. This season, his fourth as a starter, he’s averaging four tackles and facing near-constant double teams.

“Been fighting them all season,” Dunlap said of the double-teams. “I’m all right with it, though. If it helps my boys around me, it’s all good. My job is to clear things on the line and open it up for my linebackers. If that’s the case, I’ll do it. I’m down for whatever.”

Dunlap speaks with the ease and maturity of a confident young man much older than his 17 years. It’s something first-year West Charlotte coach Daren Hart noticed the first time he met the teenager about eight months ago.

“When he walks in the door, you already know. He’s got this presence,” Hart said. “He’s just a man-child. You wonder how a kid gets that big in high school.”

Hart said most teams tend to run away from the Lions’ interior defense, often choosing to avoid Dunlap.

“A lot of teams run outside,” Hart said. “He’s inside. A lot of teams run away from him, but he’s got a couple of sacks and he definitely can’t be blocked one-on-one. I’ve seen him take on double teams, all the time, and make a play on a dive.

“They can’t move him. ... I’ve never seen him go backwards. You can tell he’s a powerful guy.”

Hart believes Dunlap will only improve. He has taken weightlifting seriously for about a year, and Hart said Dunlap is still learning the nuances of his position. Dunlap’s best days and best games are ahead of him in college, Hart said.

Dunlap said he plans to choose a college in November. He said he’s honored North Carolina coach Fedora is planning the big recruiting pitch Friday.

“That makes me feel really special,” Dunlap said. “I love it down there at Carolina. I don’t know if I’ll go there, but I’m aiming to make my decision soon. Right now, I just want to finish off (the season) strong. I don’t want to look at myself as a college player. I want to help out my team so they can make plays.

“These are the last four (regular-season) games I’ll play with them ever, so I want to help them get what they need so they can get this (program) going (in the right direction).”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

Want to go?

West Charlotte will host Vance for its homecoming Friday at 7 p.m. UNC football coach Larry Fedora will arrive in a helicopter between 6:40 and 6:50 p.m. on West Charlotte’s baseball field, which is adjacent to the football field.