Cary’s Davin Vann a ‘diamond in the rough’ for NC State

Pull up Davin Vann’s Hudl video from his junior year and see how long it takes to get past the first two clips.

The 13-minute highlight video is filled with Vann making incredible plays, but it might take a minute to get to the rest. Try to watch the first two clips just once. The plays he makes are so spectacular it’s hard not to watch them multiple times.

There’s a clip of the 270-pound defensive tackle running down on the kickoff coverage team and blowing up a player who juggles the football as it hits his hands. That’s even if you make it that far in the highlight package. The very first clip shows the Cary High senior grabbing a ball carrier in the backfield by the waist and then, his wrestling instincts taking over, slamming the player onto the turf.

“It’s gotten to the point with him that it’s kind of like the norm,” Imps’ coach Jason Wilkes said of the tackle/finishing move. “He had a lot of big hits and moments like that last year, but it became normal.”

Normal for Vann (6-foot-2, 273) is registering 79 tackles (49 solo), 13 sacks and 26 tackles for loss as a junior. Vann, the No. 16 player in the state according to 247Sports, has been a starter on the Cary varsity since his freshman year, and the three-star recruit committed to N.C. State on June 7. When he was done dominating on the football field, he became a state champion wrestler in the winter before being named an All-State discus thrower for the Cary track and field team in the spring.

Normal for Vann is leaving spring football practice and hustling down to the track to get training for the discus. It’s normal for Wilkes to have to kick Vann out of the weight room because the rising senior wants to get a few extra reps instead of letting his body rest. When he talked about joining the Wolfpack, Vann already was thinking of getting in the weight room with N.C. State strength and conditioning coach Dantonio Burnette.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m excited to hit the weights,” Vann said, suddenly jittery in his chair. “They have a great strength coach and I’m excited for that. I can’t wait to get stronger.”

He’ll have his chance starting in the summer of 2020 (Vann said he has no plans on enrolling early), but firs he wants to finish strong and prove he is worthy of that N.C. State offer.

Vann almost flew under the radar, even though he has been a major contributor to the Cary football team since he first stepped on campus as a freshman. At the time, Wilkes said the coaches didn’t know what his trajectory would be, just that he would be very good. Every bar they set for Vann he exceeded it and was thirsty for more.

That’s how he ended up on kickoff coverage: He begged the coaches to let him unleash his size and enthusiasm on special teams. Not that Vann doesn’t cause enough trouble in the trenches.

His Hudl clips include several videos where teams attempt to double-team Vann. Most of the time he uses his combination of speed and power to plow through the line and make the play. One of the things he liked about N.C. State was the number of defensive linemen they put in the NFL. Vann feels like he and Wolfpack defensive line coach Kevin Patrick will “be a great match.”

Vann felt like he developed later than most of his 2020 peers. He didn’t start playing football until the 7th grade. He felt like he may have been overlooked a little bit last year, but had to grow (physically and mentally) into the player he is today.

“When I get ready to go on the field something takes over, just a mood,” Vann said. “Everything changes for me. That person lining up across from me, him thinking he’s better than me, it’s just my time to prove that I am better than him.”

Vann said his natural intensity comes from having a big family. He’s one of 10 siblings who were constantly competing. Wrestling has become another outlet, but he didn’t even want to try out at first. His mom made him go out for the Imps’ wrestling team. He liked it and last year became a state champion as well as a better football player.

“Wrestling helps you with leverage and learning your body and it teaches you discipline,” Vann said. “I thought I was going to hate it at first. I thought it was a weird sport.”

If Vann has flown under the radar, Wilkes doesn’t expect that to last long. Since he can’t officially sign a letter of intent until December, colleges can still extend offers to Vann. Even though coaches will still stop by his office and inquire, Wilkes said Vann is pretty solid on his commitment to State.

“I think they realize they’ve found a diamond in the rough. Kudos to them,” Wilkes said. “They are getting a quality young man, a quality student and a quality football player with a huge ceiling. He’s one of our hardest working kids.”

Vann knows his commitment to N.C. State, and the attention that comes along with it, will only put a bigger target on his back.

“I feel like that’s going to make me play better because I have more to prove now,” Vann said. “I have to prove why I got the offer and I have to prove that I’m better than most people and I can’t slack off.”

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.