Aug. 31, 2011
Christopher and Bearcats ready for opener
While eating pasta salad and cold cut sandwiches Tuesday afternoon at the weekly media luncheon at the Student Union, senior quarterback Blake Christopher and senior Jake Soy talked about the future.
Sure, Thursday night's season-opener at Truman was not far from their minds. The Bearcats are eager to show that despite a new head coach, a new starting quarterback and practically a new defensive unit, they remain the same football juggernaut that has roared through the MIAA and Division II football.
But one of the conversations Christopher and Soy was having had nothing to do with football. Christopher will graduate in December with a degree in Marketing and Business Management.
Before entering the business world, Christopher was toying with the idea of going to Colorado to be a ski and rafting instructor.
Soy told him to go for it.
"Jake always got advice if you know Jake. It is all good, though," Christopher said. "Jake likes to go out on a limb and do things. He said I should do it and he would follow."
Sometimes the most irrelevant conversation is actually quite revealing.
"Something I enjoy about Blake is he's free spirited," Soy said.
Through the nearly two decades of football excellence at Northwest, the most successful quarterbacks have been the ones who have a carefree charisma about them.
It takes that kind of persona to handle the expectation of winning a national title every year.
Christopher fits the mold in many ways. Even though he is on the cusp of making just his first career start in his fifth year in the program, Christopher has the respect of his teammates. He has earned it the old-fashion way: hard work.
Playing behind Joel Osborn and Blake Bolles, Christopher realized he had to wait his turn to be the signal caller.
Still, he was willing to do whatever was necessary to get on the field and help the Bearcats. In his first season that meant playing on the kickoff return team. He has also lined up as a fullback.
"Blake is an athlete, not just a quarterback," Soy said. "Blake is a football player. His freshman year he was doing kickoff returns, taking on the front line. He's from a tough family. He's a tough kid."
Christopher is a natural leader who is laid back. Teammates like him.
"He got 90-something votes for team captain," Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. "That is an unheard of number. Everybody ask how is that possible, but he is that kind of kid. He is unselfish and a good student. The fact that he played those other positions the other players thought was pretty cool for a quarterback to do."
Ultimately, performance is the final factor in getting teammates to believe in you. Christopher has done that through the fall camp.
"The biggest thing for me is getting the confidence of the team," Christopher said. "I've done that. I wanted to become a leader and prove to myself that I can lead this team. The guys respect me in the locker room and on the field. That will hopefully show on the field."
Soy says Christopher throws a crisp pass. Christopher says Soy makes his job easier.
"It's a quarterback dream to have a tall receiver who is proven," Christopher said. "You don't have to throw the perfect pass to him. With somebody like Jake who has the football intelligence like he does, he can help your read. He can find the open spots in a zone and wait for the pass. He makes life easier for a quarterback."
Christopher has been preparing for over four years for this moment and wants to make the most of it.
He expects to be nervous just before the start of the Truman game. But he also expect to feel jitters before every game.
"Anyone who says they are not a little nervous before a game is crazy," Christopher said. "If you listen to any of the interviews with NFL quarterbacks, the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings, they all have that rubber feeling in their legs. That's what I expect. But as soon as you complete the first pass and get a drive going, you lose those feelings and focus in on the game. I'm ready to go."
It's an exciting new beginning for the Bearcat nation. Northwest had unimaginable success during Mel Tjeerdsma's 17-year reign as head coach.
The 2011 Bearcats plan to keep the winning tradition going despite the untimely death of head coach Scott Bostwick in early June and all the new faces.
"I'd say we are closer than last year. I think that (Bostwick's heart attack) plays into it," Soy said.
"Our coaches have done a great job of emphasizing it this year. Last year we didn't have a lot of new faces so it wasn't a big point of emphasis. This year we have so many new people that it was something that could have been our biggest weakness. We are trying to turn it into a strength."
Because of the nature of the position, Christopher will probably be the most scrutinized Bearcat Thursday evening. He can handle it.
"He's a great kid," Dorrel said. "I'm excited for him and really rooting for him that things go well for him.
"You just don't get many kids who wait it out like he has. He never complained about it. He did whatever he could to help us."
Christopher relishes the opportunity.
"I couldn't be more excited at this point," he said.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582
Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468