It was almost unanimous.
“A lot of students were queasy about looking at them,” Culbreth said. “But not Brandon.
“He was like, ‘Oh, boy! Here they are! Let’s look at them!’ He was really taking them in and learning about them. I think he enjoyed it.”
Culbreth, who still teaches seventh grade science at Madras Middle School in Newnan, Ga., didn’t realize quite how much Brandon Facyson enjoyed that exercise until this spring. She received an email from Facyson thanking her for bringing in those cow parts six years ago, because the experience had helped him decide what he wanted to do with his life: become a heart surgeon.
Facyson mentioned something else in the email, too: He’d earned a football scholarship to Virginia Tech and was studying biological sciences.
“You know, as teachers, we try to inspire all of our students, and sometimes we may have done that and never know about it,” Culbreth said by phone this past week. “And then these few times, like Brandon telling me that, it just makes you think, ‘This was all worthwhile.’ ”
Facyson, an 18-year-old freshman cornerback, has made a habit of impressing people. Teachers. Coaches. Teammates.
Since graduating early from Northgate High School and enrolling at Tech in January, he has cracked the two-deep at his position while maintaining a 3.2 grade point average in a rigorous academic field.
More than a few well-meaning friends have told him he’s crazy for trying to do both.
“A lot of people of people tried to talk me out of it,” Facyson said. “They’re like, ‘You don’t want to take that in college. It’s going to be hard.’ I’m like, ‘I like hard. Just let me do what I want to do, and I’ll come out with a victory.’”
So far, so good. Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster began lauding Facyson (pronounced “FAY-sun”) after only a dozen practices in the spring.
Facyson is listed as the backup to Kendall Fuller at field corner. He’s likely to see plenty of action this fall, particularly after the unexpected transfer of Donaldven Manning earlier this month.
“I think he’s got a chance to be an outstanding football player here,” Foster said. “I like his demeanor. He’s long, he can transition out of breaks. He just understands it pretty good. He’s got a good football IQ. He’s a quick learner. I like that.”
Facyson’s curiosity stems from his upbringing. His mother, Karen Riggins-Taylor, would encourage him to search online whenever a subject sparked his interest, so he would spend hours educating himself with the help of Google.
Both Facyson’s mother and stepfather are principals in Dubai after holding school administration positions in Atlanta. Facyon’s father, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, manages a computer company.
“My father and my mom, they always told me, you don’t miss a class, you don’t miss a homework assignment, you don’t miss anything,” Facyson said. “You do well on your tests. I always hear that sound in the back of my head.”
Of course, on the Hokies’ practice field, there’s a louder sound: veteran whistle-blowers trying to coach him up.
Facyson says his football development requires him to use a different part of his brain than what’s required for biology. Plus, there’s the physical toll of football that often makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and trudge to class.
He does it anyway.
“It’s stressful. It’s very stressful,” Facyson said. “The tests are hard. They’re not going to sugarcoat anything. They’re not going to baby you. You have to do everything up to par to be able to get that grade, to get everything right.
“They don’t like memorization here. At all. They like application. What are you going to do with this in the long run? Biology and football is definitely a struggle, but I like working hard. I like being stressed as much as I hate being stressed. I love the person it brings out of me — the competition with myself, seeing if I can do this, seeing if I can get this grade. If I do this, what will happen?”
A lot of interested parties, from Tech football fans to a seventh grade science teacher in Georgia, are eager to find out.