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Former Ribault QB Damien Fleming finds home with Sharks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Long before leading his hometown Jacksonville Sharks to the best record in the National Arena League, quarterback Damien Fleming had a similar impact just about 15 minutes away at Ribault High School.

“This is where it all started,” said Fleming who was the class 3A player of the year in 2010. “Around this time of the year just working out with the rest of the guys and hitting the weight room that’s right behind me.”

Fleming didn’t land at Ribault until his sophomore year but it didn’t take him very long to make an impact.

“Many people were telling us that we had the best quarterback in the city,” said Ribault assistant head football coach William Griffin. “When he came out that spring we could tell from the very first throw that this kid is special.”

Although that was the case, Fleming wasn’t given the starting job right away at Ribault. That was also the case when he attended Florida A&M and when he joined the Sharks. But in all three cases once he earned the starting nod, there was no going back.

“The big thing about Damien (Fleming) is that he’s going to go in there and play his part and play his role. But if you give him that opportunity, when he gets in there it’s going to be very hard for him to give it up. If you give him a little crack you might have to kiss it goodbye for whoever the starter was before.”

Playing for his hometown team wasn’t a given for Fleming. Quarterback Tommy Grady has been the Sharks starter since 2015. Fleming wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot and had to beat out another player just to be Grady’s backup. But when Grady was lost for the season due to a lisfranc injury, Fleming filled the void and more.

The Sharks will face Columbus on Monday for a chance to win the National Arena League Championship.

“When I wasn’t playing I was still in the film room and studying plays in my playbook,” said Fleming. “When Tommy (Grady) went down, I just knew I had to step up.”