While Micah McFadden attended Plant High School in Tampa, Florida, he played on the junior varsity football team until he was a junior. As a freshman, his brother, Luke, was a senior and a team captain on varsity.
McFadden said his brother pushed him, encouraged him and told him he could be as good as he wanted if he put in the time and effort. His coaches told him the same.
“Even personally, if I didn’t always see it or wholeheartedly believe it, I could always tell that these guys believed in me,” McFadden said during a Tuesday Zoom call. “And they trusted that my talent could get me on the field and go perform at a high level.”
In McFadden’s senior year of high school, he recorded 211 tackles. He was considered a three-star recruit and committed to IU in July 2017. The Hoosiers were one of six programs to offer McFadden a scholarship.
“But I think maybe it was that coaches missed out on a little bit of a speed factor, or maybe I was a little undersized,” he said. “I think I’ve just always had a nose for the ball.”
McFadden, now a junior at IU, has transferred his speed and athleticism to the collegiate ranks. He leads the team with 30 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2020. He also led the Hoosiers in both categories last season as a sophomore.
IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said McFadden used to be a player the team put onto the field to chase the football. In his third season, he’s emerged as one of the defense’s top performers.
It’s not just his physical ability and ball skills that have contributed to his improvement. McFadden now understands more than just his own role on defense, allowing him to properly communicate and execute plays on the field. McFadden said it makes himself and the players around him better.
“Understanding our concepts, recognizing situations and certainly anticipating what offenses are doing, his production has just continued to climb,” Wommack said. “And as a coach, that is very rewarding to get to walk a guy through that going on three years now.”
After a 24-0 victory over Michigan State on Saturday, IU head coach Tom Allen announced McFadden was one of two players to win IU Defensive Player of the Week. He recorded a team-high nine tackles and accounted for two sacks.
McFadden is also tied for the team lead in quarterback hits and has recorded one interception on the year. His presence has helped cement the Hoosiers as a top defense in the Big Ten this season.
“Over these last few years, I feel like it’s just been honing in on what I have to do,” McFadden said. “Communicating with the guys around me and understanding the defense as a whole.”
This Saturday, IU will face its biggest challenge of the season when it faces No. 3 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. McFadden will look to lead the Hoosiers’ defense to an upset and maintain an undefeated season.