Frankford junior Nahjir Fletcher might stand 5 foot 4, but he packs quite a punch — which is why he was moved to defense.
Nahjir Fletcher was perfectly happy playing offense.
Fletcher, a junior on the Frankford High School football team, was seeing time and many different places on offense. He would sometimes line up at halfback, other times at wideout and he recently started playing in the slot, giving the Pioneers options to get him the ball on short passes or even on quick pitches.
But last week, when the Pioneers were practicing for a big Public League game against rival Northeast, the coaching staff decided to move Fletcher to linebacker.
“I think they saw that I play angry and they wanted me to play angry,” Fletcher said. “It wasn’t too hard, I kind of knew what to do. I never really played defense before, but I’m a football player. I’ll play wherever I can.”
Fletcher looked like an experienced veteran playing outside linebacker, and he was a big reason the Pioneers gave Northeast fits all night. The Vikings won 19–0, but Fletcher certainly did his part, registering two sacks and four tackles.
The loss was the third straight for the Pioneers, who picked up a forfeit victory over Bensalem on opening day when it was discovered the Owls used an ineligible player. The game goes down as a 2–0 victory for Frankford.
The Pioneers have yet to win a game on the field, but a lot of that can be attributed to their tough nonleague schedule and then opening up Public League play against the Vikings, who are considered one of the top teams in the city.
“It was tough losing to them because we really wanted to win,” said Fletcher, who lives in Kensington. “We’ve had a lot of tough games this year. We’re trying a lot of different things. But we all have to get better. We have to do a lot of things better. We have to listen better and we have to work harder in practice.”
Fletcher is a junior, but he’s doing everything in his power to become one of the leaders the Pioneers need as they begin the Public League portion of their schedule.
He’s also coming up much bigger than he is on the field.
Fletcher is 5 feet 4 and weighs in at just under 150 pounds, so he’s certainly not one of the biggest guys on the field. In fact, many times he’s one of the smallest guys on the field. But opposing players know he packs a huge punch in his pint size.
“When I’m out there, I think people know that I’m going to hit them,” Fletcher said. “I love hitting people. I think that’s why I like playing defense so much. I really didn’t know how much fun it was going to be but I play angry. Every play, I want to hit someone. You don’t get to do that too much when you’re playing receiver. A little bit at running back. But on defense, you’re hitting someone every play. I think I’m going to like playing defense a lot.”
He’s also going to do his part to make sure his teammates are focused on winning games.
Frankford is used to being one of the top teams in the Public League, and starting off with three losses in its first four games isn’t what the team was hoping for.
But it’s a long season, and Fletcher believes his troops have what it takes to turn it around.
“We have really good coaches, I love them all,” Fletcher said. “I’m trying to be a leader. I’m loud and I’ll make sure they hear me. The problem is some guys don’t listen. We need everyone to listen and want the same thing.”
Fletcher remains laser focused on football. And it isn’t always easy.
In Kensington, it’s easy to fall in with the wrong crowd, but Fletcher is lucky that he has a family who does everything they can to protect him. And while he knows a lot of people who aren’t always doing the right thing, he’s fortunate that those people know he’s not interested in anything but football and school.
“There are a lot of drugs in Kensington, but it’s not really a problem for me,” Fletcher said. “They know I’m a football player and they support me. They know my family doesn’t do that. They also know that I’m excited to play football.
“In Kensington, there are a lot of people who know about Frankford football and they always tell me that playing for Frankford is really big. They know what I’m doing, I’m just trying to do my best in football and in school. I have big plans, and it’s all about doing good in school.”
He also has high hopes for the Pioneers this year.
Right now, Frankford has work to do. But Fletcher is plenty sure the team is ready to put in that work.
“I think we can win a championship,” Fletcher said. “Every game, we’re getting better. We have to come to practice, listen and work. If we do that, I think we will be good.”