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DJ McFadden comes home to Independence

There’s no place like home for new Independence head football coach DJ McFadden.
There’s no place like home for new Independence head football coach DJ McFadden.
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 12:11 AM EDT
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MINT HILL, N.C. (WBTV) - There’s no place like home for new Independence head football coach DJ McFadden.

The same DJ that was the starting QB on the final 2 state championship teams in that impressive run of 7 straight state titles for the Big I.

“Feels good to be home in my old stomping grounds,” said coach McFadden. “Walking the same halls, same game field-- so it feels great.

This is McFadden’s 1st ever head coaching job and he knows it will be hard to recreate what legendary coach Tom Knotts built here, but something that era was built on can return.

“The culture, the pride, and standard of effort and hardwork that this program was built on,” said coach.

McFadden is now the 5th head coach in 6 years at Independence so along with a culture change, this program needs stability at the top spot which McFadden is hoping to cure.

“This is home for me,” said coach McFadden. “When I came back here in 2014, that was a good year for me. I had it made in my mind that if I had the opportunity to lead this program, that this is where I want to be. I don’t plan on going anywhere, but with that, you have to win some ball games.”

The last time the Patriots had double digit wins in a season was back in 2014 when McFadden was an assistant coach under then head coach Joe Evans. The Patriots went 12-1 that season. Independence’s last winning season was in 2015 when they went 8-5.

This past spring season, the Patriots struggled as they went 2-5.

In the early 2000s, Independence was the premiere high school football program in the country. From 2000-2007, they won 109 straight games and that long string of 4A state titles.

In 2005, as a 15 year old, DJ had to follow up All Americans Chris Leak and Joe Cox as the starting QB and he had never started a varsity football game. Talk about pressure! But something he learned and applied way back then, is something that will serve him well as he takes over the head job at his alma mater.

“Even back then, all I did was focus on me,” said DJ. “I didn’t try to be Joe Cox. I didn’t try to be Chris Leak. That’s the same thing now. I’m not going to try to be TK (Tom Knotts) and fill those shoes. He’s still wearing those shoes down there at Dutch Fork. Like I tell the kids, there’s a new pair of shoes and there’s a new culture.”

And that’s the thing coach is trying to drive home to his new team. Don’t feel the pressure to start a new 109 game winning streak. Start your own legacy.

“I think we have done a good job of not talking about the old days and the win streak so much because that stuff is old,” said coach. “I don’t want that to get in their heads that that’s what we are expecting. That’s not what we are expecting, but when we do talk to them about the old days, we talk to them about the culture and the pride and the standard of effort and hardwork that this program was built on. We try to block out all that outside expectation. We have expectations of our own and they’ll meet the expectations of everybody else once we take care of what we need to take care of.”

The McFadden era will start on August 20th when Independence takes on Robinson in Concord.

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