Faulkner anchors Mercer County defense, wins Defensive Player of the Year

Published 11:07 pm Friday, November 24, 2017

Mercer County head coach David Buchanan said his team defense plays like it has two safeties.

But only one player roams at safety for the Titans: Trevon Faulkner.

The basketball star backed up his preseason football district player of the year hype, securing eight interceptions and returning one for a touchdown. He also recovered five fumbles to lead the Titans. He finished second on the team with 136 tackles.

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There were a lot of weeks that Trevon was our what we call ‘Throwback Player of the Week,’ because he did so many things to help us win,” Buchanan said. “Offense, defense, even special teams sometimes. He’s a great playmaker for us. He was probably the best leader on our team as well. He was the most vocal of our leaders, and the way he played on Friday nights, he definitely led by example.”

That leadership came in to play during the lowest point of Mercer’s season on Oct. 13: Mercer lost 47-19 at home to district foe Taylor County.

The Titans fell down the district rankings and there weren’t any bright spots on the horizon.

“I think the biggest thing is that Trevon, when we hit rock bottom, in his position as a great basketball player, it would’ve been really easy to turn one eye to the gym and say, ‘I’m about done with this,’” Buchanan said. “But he had a burning desire for our team to win. I think that helped carry over to the rest of our guys, and I think all of our seniors were like that, wanting to win.”

Faulkner said he told his team that he wasn’t done and they weren’t either.

“After that game, I really just told my guys that it’s not over with, keep our heads up,” Faulkner said. “We can practice, take stuff serious and see what we could do. We got it done, did our business and made it far.”

That “burning desire” reminded Buchanan of another player he coached: Chris Lofton at Mason County.

Lofton was also a basketball star — he won Mr. Basketball as a senior and went on to win SEC Player of the year at Tennessee.

But Buchanan said Lofton and Faulkner are both more than just incredible athletes.

“They have an incredible unselfishness of wanting to do whatever it takes for the team to win,” Buchanan said. “Besides being great pass receivers, they both blocked their tails off and were all over the field defensively. A lot of the same characteristics that made Chris a great competitor, Trevon has the same thing.

“It transcends beyond being a football player. It’s the kind of person they are, the kind of leader they are. I do think that playing football helped develop that in Chris and Trevon. It’s a very physical game, it’s demanding, it’s team-oriented. I think that Trevon and Chris are those kinds of people anyway, but I think football enhanced that and built that for both of those guys.”

Faulkner’s contributions on offense — three rushing scores, 733 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns — made him vital for the Titans.

He said that he just wanted to win.

“Football is not really something I love but I really like it,” Faulkner said. “I played it, I was dedicated to doing what I needed to do for my teammates and my team. I wanted to be on the court, but I wanted to win a state championship in football as well. I was going to do whatever it took to do that.”

Buchanan said that leadership was noticed by Faulkner’s teammates.

“It really gets your attention when a basketball Division-I scholarship player is dying to win football games in November,” Buchanan said. “I think that really makes an impression on his teammates. There was no one that took the loss Friday night than Trevon did. He was just devastated. When a guy pours his heart into it like that, his teammates are going to respond. And they did.”

Faulkner’s biggest game of the year came at the biggest time: He had five touchdowns at East Jessamine in the second round of the state tournament.

Buchanan said Faulkner’s footballing has helped him on the basketball court.

“These guys continue to show that not only you don’t have to focus just on basketball, but playing football actually enhances your basketball ability and your success on the basketball court, you’re a lot more physical,” Buchanan said. “Chris Lofton said that playing football prepared him for the physicality of playing SEC basketball. I hope all the kids out there see that you don’t have to just play basketball. I would argue that playing football made Trevon a better basketball player.”

Faulkner agreed.

“I think it did pretty good, it got me more physical,” Faulkner said. “Coach (Josh) Painter’s class weightlifting has really got me right, more physical. I think it’s got me jumping a little bit higher this year, more explosive. Football just got my body a lot stronger.”

Buchanan said that Lofton and Faulkner are both great examples for young kids to follow — and that specializing in one sport doesn’t help your success.

“I want all these young kids out there, the people that tell them to play one sport are selfish. And they’re wrong,” Buchanan said. “I want the kids to see that. Because it hurts them, it doesn’t help them. It hurts the kids. But selfish coaches try to get kids to only play one sport.

“If a coach tries to get you to just play their sport, that should be a red flag that the coach does not care about you as a person.”

Faulkner proved it on Friday nights.

“It’s a blessing. I thank God every day for blessing me,” Faulkner said. “I just went out there this year and played for my brothers, did everything I could to get us to win. It’s a great feeling and I’m really blessed.”