EMORY, Va. – College coaches love to recruit athletes who come from a winning culture.
That might explain why sophomore Donovan Pinnix made such a smooth transition to the Emory & Henry football team.
In his final two years at Reidsville High School, Pinnix helped the Rams compile a 31-1 record with a pair of appearances in the 2A state championship game.
“It was an amazing experience,” Pinnix said. “We all started playing together at age seven, and we developed more chemistry with each season.”
After earning the 2016 state title at Wake Forest University with a 58-12 over Edenton Holmes, the 2017 Rams dropped a 35-28 overtime decision to Wallace-Rose Hill at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium.
“Playing in those atmospheres definitely helped prepare me for college,” Pinnix said.
While several of his teammates joined football programs at UNC and Appalachian State, Pinnix moved from the Piedmont region of North Carolina to the mountains of far Southwest Virginia.
It all started with a tip to Emory & Henry head coach Curt Newsome from Reidsville defensive coordinator Doug Marrs, who formerly served as the head football coach at Graham High School in Bluefield, Virginia.
“Coach Marrs is a friend, and he called me after the 2017 season about a couple of guys who were looking for a place to play,” Newsome said. “I’m glad that I made the drive to Reidsville. Donovan is pretty good, and he has a special family.”
Pinnix was a two-time all-state selection in North Carolina as an offensive lineman. He also starred at defensive end.
Shortly after making the 161-mile journey to E&H last year, Pinnix found his niche on the defensive line. After earning a starting role in the second half of the season, he finished with 22 tackles and one touchdown on a blocked punt.
“Donovan has the quick burst you look for in a defensive lineman, and any coach would love his attitude,” Newsome said. “He’s humble and always has a smile.
Through eight games this season, the 5-foot-10, 240-pound Pinnix has collected 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He is tied fourth on the team with 35 tackles.
“My freshman year was all about learning a new system,” said Pinnix, who recorded six tackles last year against ODAC champion Randolph-Macon. “I was able to learn and adapt with the help of my teammates.”
The starting defensive line crew for Emory & Henry includes 6-2, 240-pound senior tackle Josh Fleenor (47 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss), 6-3, 230-pound senior end Da’Von Keith (33 tackles, 10 sacks) and 6-1, 265-pound sophomore tackle Kaleb Bare from Sullivan East.
“Da’Von and Josh show true senior leadership,” Pinnix said. “If we have a question about anything, they will get us straight. Really, we’re all like family on defense.”
As is the case with most college teams, one of the most popular topics involves the talent-level for high school football in different region.
Pinnix has the right to brag.
Reidsville won its 20th state title last year as sophomore quarterback Kyle Pinnix, Donovan’s younger brother, earned game MVP honors with four touchdown passes.
“A few guys here at Emory have asked where I’m from and I tell that I’m from the 336 in Reidsville,” said Donovan Pinnix, referring to the area code for the Piedmont-Triad region. “People that follow football know that Reidsville is one of the top programs in North Carolina, so I feel some pressure to perform.”
In Saturday’s 35-3 loss to unbeaten Bridgewater, Pinnix collected six tackles and forced BC into a short punt.
The next for test for E&H (5-3, 4-2) comes Saturday at ODAC rival Guilford.
“We just have to stay in the lab, put in the work and see what areas we need to improve on,” Pinnix said. “That’s the way I approach the sport.”