Charlotte Christian FB is the last of a dying breed

By EFN Staff
Published: 02/20/2015

Spread offenses are fun to watch and understandably are part of the evolution of the game of football, but with a new trend something has to give way. Getting lost in the shuffle of teams scoring 50 plus points a game with the idea of running 80 or more plays a game is a pro-style offense that features a defensive equalizer on offense – the fullback.

In the good old days when everyone walked to the TV set to turn the station to the highly anticipated game of the week, or even in more recent history when a tube illuminated television sets across the country instead of watching games on flat panel TVs nailed to a wall, a fullback was the offenses’ version of a linebacker. The primary goal was to knock an inside linebacker on his backside to make room for the running back to break free.

From the Wishbone offense to a Power-I formation, fullbacks were a key part to a running attack for every team at all levels of the game. Replacing the fullback in many ways is the H-back, a hybrid tight end fullback, and the slot receiver, the 11th spot on a given passing offense.

To play the fullback position one has to have a certain mentality, a lunch pail/blue collar kind of guy that is willing to work hard, does not need the limelight, but takes pleasure in the overall achievements of the team. The dying breed has left few true fullbacks in the high school ranks but one that cannot be overlooked is Charlotte Christian’s Connor Maitland.

Maitland, a Class of 2016 prospect, has the ideal frame and size for a kickass fullback. He’s listed at 6’0”, 225 pounds, and runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.5 range. For a fullback, how quickly he can cover about five yards to the point of attack with a full head of steam and an attitude is all that matters. The next 35 yards are for running backs and attention seekers.

Charlotte Christian uses Maitland as a two-way star putting him as a hand down starting defensive end. Maitland racked up 76 tackles, 16.5 sacks, and 21 tackles for a loss during his junior campaign. On offense he rushed for 332 yards on 39 carries getting the rock across the end zone three times. Proving his true versatility he caught 12 passes for 205 yards showing his speed in the open field, while adding another score to his impressive resume.

In an Elite Sports Network exclusive interview Connor sat down to talk about being a two-way star, being the last of a dying breed, and getting ready for his senior season.

Connor, the Knights won their third straight state championship in 2014. With the help of some great blocking up front you helped pave the way for Class of 2016 Duke commit Elijah Deveaux to rush for nearly 1,400 yards with 19 touchdowns on the ground. What is it like to block for Deveaux?

“If we give him a good enough hole, he’s going to make things happen.”

What is your approach or mentality on the field at fullback?

“They’re not going to get past my block, I’m going to take them to the ground and open up a hole for the running back.”

What are your strengths on the field at fullback?

“I always keep my feet moving no matter what. When I’m carrying the ball I have the will to stay up as long as I can. My mentality is not to go down. I don’t miss many blocks, I’m a tough runner, and I can catch the ball.”

You caught 12 passes for 205 yards last year averaging 17 yards a catch. What do you like better getting the handoff or catching the ball?

“I like the passing game a little more. I like going outside, people don’t think I’m fast.”

Sum up your play at defensive end?

“I’m normally quicker than the offensive lineman. I don’t like being blocked. I do everything I can to get past the offensive lineman. I had an All-American I was going against in practice in (center) Brian Chaffin (Stanford) and a N.C. State commit (tackle Phillip Walton), that really helped me get better.”

Did you receive any post season individual honors for your play on the field?

“I was All-Conference and All-State at fullback and defensive end.”

After winning three straight state titles and with a lot of talent coming back for next season how is the team set up for a run at number four?

“I think we look good. We have some new offensive linemen coming in. We have some new linemen in the weight room getting ready. I think we’ll be pretty good.”

What do the Knights need to do to put a fourth consecutive piece of hardware in the trophy case in 2015?

“I think if we gel together, learn how to play with each other we’ll be able to win another one.”

What are your goals for the 2015 football season?

“My goal is to win another state championship. I’ve always wanted to play college ball. I’m looking forward to getting that first offer. I broke the school single-season sack record (16.5) last season in my first year playing defensive end. I’d like to break it again. But my main goal is to win a state championship.”

What are you looking for in a college program?

“Academics, I want my football career to go far but I want to make sure I set myself up for the future. A good academic college is most important. I want to go into the military, so playing for one of the academies would be great.”

Are you going to any college camps this summer?

“I plan on going to camps at Army, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Coastal Carolina, and Liberty in Virginia.”

What are you doing in the offseason to prepare for the camps?

“I’m wrestling for the school at the 220 pound division. One of the main reasons I started to wrestle was to help me with my hands. I have quick hands. I’m also in the weight room every other day to get ready for next year and the camps.”

How is wrestling going for you this season?

“We just had a conference tournament, state is this weekend. I’m 20-4 on the season. I won conference for my weight class which qualifies me for state.”

How many matches will you have to win in the state tournament to make the finals?

“I’m not sure how many matches I’ll have to win but it’s over two days. I’ll be a No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 seed at state. The earlier rounds should be easier but the later rounds will be tougher. The finals are at Charlotte Latin.”

Charlotte Latin is a rival of yours. Is there extra motivation to win state at their house?

“I beat their guy in the conference championship. We only have seven guys on the team out of 14 spots. We have to forfeit a lot of spots for each match.”

Who has made the biggest impact on your football career?

“My dad (Lee) has had the biggest impact on my football career. He played at a small D-II school, Asbury University. He coached me for a while. I didn’t really like him coaching me. After he stopped coaching me, he started being more of a dad and supportive than as a coach.”

Who is your favorite NFL player?

“I love watching J.J. Watt play. I just love watching him play. His heart, he’s an amazing player.”

What is your favorite part of playing football?

“I love the physicality of the game. I love going out there and hitting someone.”

As most interviews go Connor is not a Chatty Kathy, but that’s alright because that is his personality and more than likely why he is such a dominating fullback and defensive end. He wants to get down to business and cut out the idle chatter.

Of the 26 draft eligible fullbacks entering the 2014 NFL Draft only three were selected: Arkansas’ Kiero Small (6th round to Houston), Auburn’s Jay Prosch (7th round to Seattle), and Oklahoma’s Trey Millard (7th round to San Francisco). Of the 26 eligible two came from the same school, Stanford (Ryan Hewitt and Geoff Meinken). The point, at least 25 schools still utilize the fullback on offense, albeit five were from FCS programs.

The 2015 class has six fullbacks that are expected to garner some draft options; Alabama’s Jalston Fowler, LSU’s Connor Neighbors, South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner, Yale’s Tyler Varga, Penn State’s Zach Zwinak, and Florida’s Hunter Joyner; add a couple more teams to the list of fullbacks needed.

Maitland’s path to the college ranks maybe more difficult than for some but being a standout at a rare position can help push him to the forefront at his position. All Maitland now needs is the right college looking to utilize a lunch pail fullback who loves to hit. That shouldn’t be too hard.

Photo credit:; No. 33 Connor Maitland.
Photo credit:; Charlotte Christian takes the field.