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Gallagher column: Transfer Pagan embraces defense

The first thing Glen Padgett told Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan was, “You’re going to love this kid.”
Padgett, then the coach at North Mecklenburg, was referring to Linares Pagan, who had moved into the Salisbury district.
Padgett was right. Pinyan loves Pagan’s transformation from a shy transfer as a junior to one of the vocal leaders as a senior.
Pagan came to the Hornets as a kid who wanted to call signals as a quarterback. He will call signals in 2009, only on the other side of the ball. Pagan is the middle linebacker who wants to bash quarterbacks.
“I love hitting,” he said.

It was quite a transition on and off the field for Pagan when he arrived last season. He was not a wishbone quarterback.
“I was used to just handing the ball off,” Pagan said. “I wasn’t used to all that option stuff. But I loved it.”
Just one problem. Salisbury already had a seasoned starter in John Knox. So there Pagan was, a backup quarterback with a big body, just waiting his turn.
It didn’t help the adjustment.
“It was kinda hard coming in,” he said. “I didn’t know how to fit in. At first, I really didn’t talk to anybody.”
In stepped defensive coordinator Ryan Crowder.
“Here was this 215-pound kid sitting on the bench,” Crowder said. “I told Coach Pinyan, ‘He’s too good to be sitting. We can use him.’ ”
Pinyan agreed and Crowder turned the quiet kid into a bruising linebacker.
“He came over and made a big impact,” Crowder said.
Pagan basically learned the linebacker position last season. Now, he’s ready for big things. He has bulked up to six feet and 230 pounds of strength.
“In Charlotte, players are faster,” Pagan said. “Up here, it’s more power football. So I worked hard all summer.”

Pagan has plenty of buddies now. He’s definitely more comfortable, which is nice for Crowder to see.
“I think he’s really adapted,” Crowder said. “He’s made a lot of friends. These guys respect his ability on the field. They all kinda look up to him as a leader, which says a lot since he’s only been here a season and a half. And he’s only played defense for a half season. He’s making all the defensive calls.”
It also helps that brother Kelsey is nearby, playing at Livingstone. He keeps urging little brother to work, work, work.
No problem.
“He actually wants to play defense,” Crowder said. “He doesn’t want to go back to offense. He’s a defensive-minded player.”
With a winning mentality. When asked what he wanted to accomplish this season, Pagan said in all seriousness, “My goal is to shut every team out.”
That attitude has helped prove Padgett right. Pinyan loves Linares Pagan.
And so will you.

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