Off the Edge
Getting to the quarterback is what Wilks likes best
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Nov. 1, 2006 - Clay Wilks can make the case that when he's playing Madden on his Playstation at home, he's actually studying for this week's high school game.

Maybe part of the time, anyway.

Wilks, senior outside linebacker for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats, usually gets prepared by going in early or staying late to watch game film. But, he jokes that playing video football doesn't hurt.

"I guess a little bit of Playstation at home helps a little bit. Whatever you've got to do to get ready," he smiles. "By watching a lot of film in the morning and after school, I really try to key in and pay attention and know my assignments.

"I feel like if I don't know what I'm doing, then I'm letting someone down.Sometimes, I feel that's more important than getting physically ready is to be mentally ready, because the game is more mental than physical."

Defensive coordinator Steve Hale said Wilks' mental preparation is noticeable.

"Clay's very smart. He understands the game of football. He is very savvy and just an intelligent kid," Hale said. "He has some leadership skills. A lot of kids watch him a little bit."

What Wildcat fans usually see him do is come off the edge to pressure the quarterback in passing situations. Wilks leads the team in sacks (two) and tackles for losses (six). He is fourth on the squad with 31 overall tackles.

His favorite thing is to blitz the quarterback, especially from the blind side.

"Whether I'm down in a three-point or standing up pass rushing off the edge, there's nothing like looking at the quarterback's back when he doesn't know you're coming," Wilks said. "Sometimes, he knows you're coming but he just can't get away from you.

"That's probably my favorite blitz. We call it bullets, and I love it when he signals it in. I get a smile on my face because here we go."

While rushing the passer is his favorite activity, it's not the only thing he does at outside linebacker. Sometimes, he must get into a three-point stance as a down linemen and other times, he must drop back into pass coverage.

The way the Wildcats play defense, outside linebackers must be some of the more athletic players on the gridiron.

"Clay brings a lot of athleticism," Hale explained. "His position requires him to play stand-up defensive end, and he also drops a lot into pass coverage and we blitz him a lot.

"He's responded with some big hits this year."

In the spring, Wilks will be on the diamond for the Wildcats and at Coleman Park. He will be playing for the Wildcats and umpiring for the youth leagues.

In fact, umpiring may be something he pursues after high school. Either that or coaching - "Something to keep me involved in sports," he said.

Right now though, the focus is on No. 1-ranked Texas High, who the Wildcats face on Friday. With that tall order looming, the SSHS defense has had its two best days of practice this year on Monday and Tuesday, Hale said.

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