Jeff Lloyd has seen a lot of talented athletes during his nearly 30 years as a high school football coach. Monticello quarterback Malachi Fields may be the best he’s ever seen.
“He is the only kid that I have ever coached that could play every offensive or defensive position, besides lineman, and be the best player at that position,” Lloyd said. “The scary thing is he has another year.”
The junior’s dominance was on display last Friday as he led the Mustangs to a 28-27 overtime victory over Western Albemarle. Fields rushed 20 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns, including a two-yard score on fourth down in overtime. He also completed 15-of-25 passes for 218 yards and another score to take home Daily Progress Athlete of the Week honors.
“What made us successful last week was staying together,” Fields said. “Playing as a team and not giving up. We kept hustling on every play.”
The 2019 season has been a bit of a struggle early on for Monticello.
The Mustangs dropped their first four games, including a 56-25 loss to Turner Ashby, where the Knights rallied with 35 unanswered points to earn the win.
“This season has been hard,” Fields said. “We have been putting in the work in practice every week, expecting to win on Fridays. Even though it’s only happened once, we plan to keep grinding in practice and keep searching for wins on Friday nights.”
An all-district performer last season, the junior has thrown for 617 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mustangs. He’s also been a threat on the ground with 391 rushing yards and seven scores.
“Malachi is a tremendous young man and he’s becoming a vocal leader,” Lloyd said. “He has always been a leader because of his ability. He has God-given talent, but he works harder than anybody in our program, so you follow a kid like that.”
Football has always been a big part of Fields’ life. He started playing at an early age and had big dreams of playing quarterback or receiver.
“I started playing football when I was little,” he said. “My dad would take me out in the yard and throw the ball up to me and I would catch it. I just fell in love with the game.”
The love continued to grow as Fields got older, especially when he reached high school.
Last fall, Fields won the Monticello starting quarterback job, succeeding the program’s all-time leading passer Kevin Jarrell, who now plays for William & Mary.
His first career start was impressive. Fields amassed 320 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a nondistrict victory over William Monroe.
“Playing in this offense allows me to use my God-given talents when I get the call or if a play breaks down,” Fields said. “I love being on the field every snap of the ball. If it’s offense, defense or special teams, there’s no place I would rather be.”
The rest of the season wasn’t as memorable for Monticello, which mustered just one more victory over the final nine games as Fields and his teammates experienced some growing pains. In addition to playing quarterback, Fields spent a lot of time last season at receiver as well, utilizing his athletic ability to make plays down the field.
Fields said that experience has served him well this season because he now understands the nuances of both positions. He still lines up numerous times a game at wideout to try to add another weapon opposing defenses must account for.
“Playing quarterback helps with playing wideout, because when I run my routes, I know where the ball is going to be and when and where to look for the ball,” Fields said. “Playing wideout helps with quarterback because I know when to throw the ball when my receivers are coming out of their breaks.”
This year, the Mustangs have retooled their running back and receiving corps to give Fields more weapons in the offense. The junior quarterback said the experience at wideout last season has helped him at quarterback.
“It’s great having options,” Fields said. “It makes my job a little bit easier and my wideouts are great. They catch the ball and get up the field. I just play my game and stay comfortable in the backfield. This year, I’m probably better at reading the field and knowing what to do with the ball.”
Regardless of where he lines up, Fields enjoys having the ball in his hands.
“My favorite play is quarterback train because I get the ball and follow my offensive line right up the middle,” Fields said. “Through each play, I try to keep myself calm. I have a clock in my head when I drop back to pass, one thousand, one, one thousand two, one thousand three, and if I don’t see what I want by then, I take off running.”
Football has become a large part of Fields’ life. When he’s not feeding his hunger for success on the gridiron, he looks to whet his appetite in the kitchen.
“I like to eat and try new things,” he said. “My favorite food is barbecue ribs. I don’t really cook, but I would like to and make my own unique food.”
In the classroom, the junior said his favorite subject is chemistry.
“I like watching how different chemicals react with each other,” he said.
Another under-the-radar hobby for Fields is fashion. In preparation for last week’s homecoming game, Fields decided to look his best on the field with a special pair of cleats that were very colorful and had the message “Everything’s bigger in Texas” on the side.
“I just found them for cheap and they looked cool,” Fields said. “I thought I would rock them for the homecoming game.”
College coaches are starting to take interest in Fields. He already has an FBS offer from Liberty University and several other schools are likely to come calling soon. The Monticello product said he’s being recruited as an athlete and would like to play receiver at the next level.
“When I play, I try to be myself and just play my game,” Fields said. “I don’t really try to be like anybody else. This year, I’ve been trying to be more patient with the offensive line on pass plays and run plays.”
He’s also embraced the leadership role for the Mustangs.
“He is the heart and soul of our football team,” Lloyd said. “He is a sponge an is staring to understand the game from a coach’s perspective. He will continue to get better and better and he is pretty darn good right now.”