Malik Fountain embraces new challenge as leader of Chippewa defense

Central Michigan linebacker Malik Fountain speaks to reporters at MAC Media Day at Ford Field on July 24.

As the leading tackler for the Central Michigan football team the previous two seasons, Malik Fountain established himself as a key part to the Chippewa defense.

Players like Amari Coleman and Joe Ostman, who both have graduated and signed with NFL teams, made it easier for Fountain to blend in.

Now as his senior season is creeping up, Fountain says he’s ready for his newest challenge — being a leader.

“I don’t really feel a lot of pressure, I just need to put some of the younger guys in a position to be successful,” Fountain said. “I have to show that I know the system. Becoming more of a leader is something I’ve always wanted to be.”

Fountain will be playing besides fellow senior linebacker Alex Briones along with Mitch Stanitzek and Nathan Brisset-Fast up front to bring seniority back to the defense.

The team is lacking returning starters in the secondary. Junior cornerback Sean Bunting will be the only returning starting defensive back.

“We have talented guys back there that can get the job done, it’s ours up front to get pressure on the quarterback and help stop the run as much as possible,” Fountain said. “We have the ability to be a great defense.”

Head coach John Bonamego said he knows Fountain is ready to take on more responsibility.

“I trust him, he knows what he’s doing out there and there’s no doubt he’s going to play a big role,” Bonamego said. “Malik has made plays for us over the past few seasons time and time again. He’s one of the smartest players on this team’s with reading an offense. He will be key to our success.”

The former All-Mid-American Conference First Team in 2016 and Second Team in 2017 linebacker recorded a combined 181 tackles over the past two campaigns. He also has combined for 12.5 tackles for loss over the past two years, 10 of which came in 2016.

But statistics can only go so far, according to Fountain. 

The Chicago native wants to keep his head high regardless of situation on the football field.

“What coach would want me to say is to not have any lows and just do everything the right way,” Fountain said. “We have to come out fired up for every game, from start to end. Play to win.”

CMU has also added a few graduate transfers that Fountain believes could play a major role in the Chippewas defensive rotation.

Names he mentioned were Sean Adesanya from Illinois, Marcus Griffin from Arizona and junior transfer Xavier Crawford from Oregon State.

“I feel like they can easily adjust to our team,” Fountain said. “They came together and are apart of the family now. There weren’t cocky about it, I feel like they were very humble when they came in. I just felt like they were family.”

The Chippewas were picked to finish fifth in the MAC West Division standings by the media at MAC Media Day in Detroit. 

Fountain said he embraces the role of being picked to finish low in the standings.

“It’s the preseason, it’s fun being the underdogs,” Fountain said. “I like to be relentless and we’re relentless. What relentless means to me is trying to do the impossible. They think we going to finish fifth, I think we going to finish first. It’s the greatest feeling ever to prove somebody wrong.”