It’s tough to picture this guy - seated on a golf cart wearing an oversized panda head - as a Marine.
But head into the weight room or out onto the football field and it’s evident that Dammeon Chisholm’s background involved the armed forces. The Fort Mill linebackers coach shouts, gestures, pleads, cajoles, jokes. It’s all done loudly and with force.
“I can’t be a 25-percenter or a 50-percenter,” he said earlier this week. “If I’m gonna hit the field I’m gonna go 100 percent all the time.”
“He’s very intense,” said senior linebacker Jake Ajemian, who works closely with Chisholm. “It’s a great mixture of seriousness and fun. He’s a great coach and I love being around him.”
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Chisholm grew up in Rock Hill and played football at Northwestern for Bobby Ivey in the mid-1980s. He went to Wingate to play college football and got involved with the Marine reserves there. Chisholm’s lengthy stretch working under legendary high school football coach Tommy Knotts, first at West Charlotte in 1996 then at Independence during the Patriots’ run of seven straight titles, shared some of the same characteristics of the military.
“Tommy Knotts was the kind of guy, you couldn’t be on his coaching staff if you didn’t understand what he was trying to do,” said Chisholm. “You had to be an X and O guy, you had to be highly motivated. I loved it, I loved it, I loved working for Tommy.”
That influence is easy to see in Chisholm’s own style. Sometimes the style is abrasive, sometimes it involves a hug, but regardless the delivery, Fort Mill’s linebackers are eager to absorb Chisholm’s knowledge.
“That’s what we have to try and grasp because he knows what it takes to win,” said senior Grant Stevens, who moved from safety to linebacker this year. “At Independence you don’t win that many championships in a row without knowing something.”
Chisholm coaches both varsity and JV linebackers at Fort Mill. After stepping away from football several years ago, he landed at Fort Mill last fall on the recommendation of his former defensive coordinator at Independence, Bill Geiler, who was working with Ed Susi and the Yellow Jackets.
“The only connection I had here was with Coach Geiler,” said Chisholm. “I came by and I met Ed (Susi) and we hit it off.”
Chisholm got a job at the school and it’s been a great fit. A photo of him wearing the panda head appeared recently - part of Fort Mill’s spirit week for Homecoming - and his Twitter account is an interesting follow. Recent posts include a challenge to his players in the weight room, where he’s thus far unbeaten on the bench.
“I think the only person that could probably beat him is Coach (Ed) Susi. I’m working, I might get him soon but I don’t know,” said Ajemian.