DaVon Fowlkes was a late addition to the Appalachian State football team when he was a freshman in 2000.
Fowlkes received a half-scholarship to play for the Mountaineers. By the time he finished his tenure at App State in 2004, he was one of the most prized players in the program’s history.
Fowlkes was inducted into the Appalachian State Athletic Hall of Fame this year with former standout basketball player Donald Sims, former wrestler Jim Whitmer and tennis player Bobby Barbera.
Fowlkes, who now owns a business in Rockville, Md., was not just a standout receiver with the Mountaineers, but also a dangerous punt returner. He returned two punts for touchdowns against defending Division I-AA Georgia Southern, but both were called back because of penalties.
Georgia Southern won the game 27-18.
“That was when Georgia Southern had a really good team with Adrian Peterson and those boys,” Fowlkes said. “I ran two punts back. They didn’t count, but that was the start of my career.”
Fowlkes’ career ended by being named the Southern Conference Male Athlete of the Year for 2004-05. He finished third in the Walter Payton Award voting, which went to the Division I-AA (now FCS) top player, and was a three-time All-Southern Conference player as a receiver and as a return specialist.
Fowlkes still holds the Mountaineers’ single-season record for receiving yards with 1,618, single-season touchdown catches with 14, single-season receptions with 103 and the most catches in a single game with 17. All of those records were set in 2004.
Despite his credentials, it took 15 years for Fowlkes to reach the Appalachian State Hall of Fame. He got the call from App State, which left him a voicemail of the good news while he was at work.
“I knew my day would come,” Fowlkes said. “I didn’t know when. I just had to be patient with it and be ready when they called.”
Throwing many of those passes was quarterback Richie Williams, who Fowlkes still stays in contact with. Williams led Appalachian State to the 2005 Division I-AA national championship, one year after Fowlkes graduated.
“I had an excellent quarterback in Richie,” Fowlkes said. “I talked to him often, maybe once a month. We got to play together in Canada as well. He was an excellent leader, so I wasn’t surprised they won a championship.”
Fowlkes signed a free-agent deal with his native Indianapolis Colts in 2005, but was waived by the team. He reunited with Williams when both played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL.
He enjoyed his time in the CFL, which presents several different rules from the American game. There are 12 players per side in Canada, and receivers can move forward before the ball is snapped instead of being in a set position.
As a return specialist, Fowlkes also had to deal with what is known as a “single.” Any punt that reaches, and then stays, in the end zone must be fielded since the punter can recover the ball.
Players who field the punt have the option of either returning it, taking a knee in the end zone for a single, or punting it back. Fowlkes said there is one option that is not available.
“On third down you’ve got to punt and no fair catches up there,” he said. “They give you the halo rule. The punter can run down there and recover the ball and it’s their ball. It’s kind of a quirky rule, but it’s interesting.”
The field is 110-yards long and also wider than an American field. The end zones are also 20 yards deep.
“It’s really good for wide receivers and quarterbacks,” he said. “There’s a lot of space, a lot of room to operate.”
As far as life after football, Fowlkes owns his own business of polishing concrete floors in Maryland. His company also has customers in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
He returned to Boone 10 years ago, but a lot has changed in the past decade. The Mountaineers are members of the FBS Sun Belt Conference, and the Mark Ricks Athletics Center is the home of the App State athletic department.
There is also plenty of construction being done at Kidd Brewer Stadium, including the eventual Jerry Moore Plaza, which will be built on the north side of the stadium.
“It’s amazing. I’ve been trying to come back here and see it all come together,” he said. They’re doing great things up here and I’m excited to see it taking off the way it is.”