CECIL – Jake Wyrosdick had played quarterback all his life when Macon East Academy coach Glynn Lott approached him in the middle of his sophomore year.
“We had a guy go down and Coach said, ‘You’ll be playing guard this week,’” Wyrosdick recalled. “I was caught off guard by that.”
Wyrosdick has been there ever since, an average-sized teenager that might push 200 pounds if he’s carrying a lot of change in his pockets. But the quarterback-turned-center filled the role in the latter part of 2017, helping the Knights reach the semifinals of the Class AA playoffs and started every game last year to help the Knights reach the semifinals of the AAA playoffs.
“He played quarterback all his life, but he’s not a very fast kid,” Lott said. “Tucker (Neven) came and then Kirkland (Pugh). We felt like there would be some people in front of him. But Jake works his tail off. Jake works hard in the weight room, Jake works hard in the classroom, Jake is just a great kid. Jake has found a way to get on the field.
“Last year, he was the highest grading offensive lineman a few times and it’s not because he goes out there and knocks people off the ball. Sometimes, he’s just getting in the way. But he’s going to be in the right spot because he’s so smart. We’re letting him make a lot of calls at the line in situations to get us in the right spot. Size, you worry about it some but he played last year at the same size. He makes up with heart and being so smart.”
It wasn’t love at first sight. Wyrosdick had played quarterback for the Knights’ pee-wee and junior high teams and had even seen action in some early games in 2017. It’s not easy for a person in that position to give up his dream and join the offensive line, where most players toil in obscurity.
“It was definitely hard for me to get my head around,” he said. “The team rallied around the idea of winning the last two years and that definitely changed everything. Everybody on this team has sacrificed what they want to do to win and that’s more important.”
Lott, who is coaching the offensive line for the second consecutive year, said Wyrosdick’s mental preparation helps him win a lot of his battles on Friday night.
“Fifty percent of the time, when we break the huddle, he’s telling somebody else’s position what they should be doing on that play,” Lott said. “That’s a leadership skill you want in a center that can communicate on both sides of the line. I think he bought into it because we gave him that responsibility.
“It’s the same thing when he plays linebacker. He’s not the biggest but he’s going to be in the right spot and have everybody else lined up in the right spot. They’ll be times when we play him at guard because he may be outmanned (at center) by a nose guard that he can’t handle, but we’ve got a plan for that, too. He can play every position on the line.”
There won’t be an athletic scholarship waiting for Wyrosdick at the end of the season. He might have had a chance had he remained at quarterback, but no college recruiter is looking for undersized centers.
“Part of me has (thought about that),” he said. “But when I’m 75 years old and I’m sitting in my recliner I’m not going to remember being the starting quarterback of the Macon-East Knights. I’m going to remember going to state.
“I think that sacrifice for winning is more important than my personal goals.”
Macon East will have new skill players at quarterback, receiver and running back, so the experienced offensive line – as well as the defensive front – will be crucial in the Knights’ success this fall.
“I want them to know that,” Lott said. “We will challenge them to be the strength of our team, not just hope that’s the strength of the team. They’re going to have to know that and be conscious of that every day.”
Wyrosdick, for his part, will be challenging his teammates every day at practice.
“The last two years, we’ve been put out in the semifinals and that’s big for us because we were not as good a team a few years back,” he said. “But these last two years have been tough, losing out in the semifinals. I think we’re going to come back with a little different of a chip on our shoulder this year.
“I think the sky’s the limit for this team. If the guys rally around each other and have the same mindset of winning, this team can go far.”