Sept. 17, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
I took a ride in a tow truck the other day while Wesley was hauling the 1989 Land Cruiser that I could no longer run on the original radiator. That was a two-day project, actually, and I ended up thinking maybe Wes should be in the Yellow Jackets’ locker room today.
He was a big talker, a big dreamer, a hero and not because he nursed the `Cruiser.
Wes served in Iraq, where he was torn up a few years ago in a rocket-propelled grenade incident. There is a big scar across his nose to remind him every time he looks in a mirror. He said he suffered a spinal injury, and a bunch of shrapnel burned through his boots and messed up his feet. So every step serves as a reminder, too.
Wes seemed to harbor little or no ill will, and he spoke about his dream of one day buying property on the northern outskirts of metro Atlanta and opening an off-road nirvana where folks could not only run their rigs in mud pits and the like, but also work on their machines in a shop he’d build.
It was inspirational to hear someone dealt a crappy hand be such a forward thinker.
Maybe Wes could help at North Carolina today. The Jackets could use some inspiration.
From multiple indications, the Yellow Jackets had a motivational problem last Saturday, and while coach Paul Johnson has said that there’s only so much he can do to jack up the boys, and that’s believable, I think it’s possible for one person to incentivize not only himself but others.
Some seniors have apparently been a little more focused on that this week, though only to a point.
“If you can’t get yourself up for a big North Carolina game, a game like this, you don’t deserve to play,” said quarterback and co-captain Joshua Nesbitt. “We’re going to tell [younger players], and stress how big this game is, but if you can’t get yourself up then you shouldn’t play.”
That’s a pretty nice summation, and by it Nesbitt didn’t mean that the only players lacking oomph were underclassmen.
As Anthony Allen said, “As leaders we have to come to practice with the mentality that we’re preparing to be champions.”
Allen said everybody was flat in the locker room before last week’s game at Kansas, where co-captain Brad Jefferson said inattention to details burned through Tech’s boots. “We didn’t do the little things, and it made big things happen for them,” he said. “We missed a lot of tackles and it hurt us.”
Ah, missed tackles. There were plenty, including the memorable play where linebacker Steven Sylvester looked like he was going to lay out a ball carrier only to bounce off him at such high speed that he propelled a Jayhawk that much faster to the end zone.
That play featured several mistakes, making it symptomatic. In defensive coordinator Al Groh’s understatement of the week, he said, “We didn’t attempt to do it the way we’re trained to do it.”
So, this week, there has been greater attention paid to brain and brawn.
“Until the habit is broken so many tacklers lose their leg drive when the [contact] occurs,” Groh said. “One of the points that we emphasize is to fight to stay on your feet.”
The way a player goes about his business can influence the way others approach theirs, so senior Mario Edwards said, “A lot of times it’s senior leadership and leading by example. You’ve got to always stay in your playbook, and you can never get complacent because you’re the ACC champion and they’re gunning for you every game.”
Good points, huh?
Wes got a call as we neared the end of the line Thursday. It was another tow truck driver. Hard not to eavesdrop when the two of you are in the cab of a truck. They made plans to get together (maybe for lunch?).
“Yeah, the bat cave,” Wes said. “I’m going to be in Marietta so let’s just meet at the bat cave.”
I swear this happened. I later BING-ed bat cave and Marietta and whiffed so I haven’t much more than an inkling what that was all about. The towing company Wes works for is based in Marietta. Maybe that’s the bat cave; I didn’t ask.
We’re all familiar with the bat cave from which Bruce Wayne gear up for his super hero works.
Hopefully, Tech’s locker room in Chapel Hill is a bat cave for the Jackets, and the Ramblin’ Wreck doesn’t leave Kenan Stadium in need of a tow. Wes once pulled a car to Charlotte, but said he originates calls only from metro Atlanta.
Personally, as a youngster I felt Batman was kind of a dweeb. I was more of a Wonder Dog guy. What about you? Send missives (no missiles or RPGs please), to firstname.lastname@example.org.