ï»¿Every player on a football team can be categorized by his role, and further classified by the stereotype which fits each position on the team. The quarterback is typically seen as the brains of the operation, running backs and receivers are viewed more as the “skill” players, and the defensive linemen and linebackers are usually known as anchors of the defense. Then there are the offensive linemen.
“It’s almost as if we are seen as the Homer Simpsons of the team,” jokes offensive guard Drew Wert, who has experienced all stages of development during his four years in the program. From the struggles of a young player, to the personal reward that comes with a team’s great success, to achieving overall growth as a well-rounded and enthusiastic individual.
For years Linfield’s football team has been known for its offensive prowess. One vital key to the Wildcats’ all-divisions record streak of winning seasons is its scoring. During the past decade, the Wildcats have outscored opponents by an average of 461-208 per season. The ‘Cats topped out at 650 points in the championship-winning season of 2004, though that season saw Linfield allowed 256 points, the second-highest total since 2001. In the same time span, Linfield averaged over 40 points per game. The last time the Wildcats were held scoreless was more than a decade ago – Sept. 15, 2001 – a 29-0 defeat against Southern Oregon. It’s safe to say that Linfield remains a powerhouse thanks to its consistently productive offense.
Because the unit is such a vital fixture to the team as a whole, it is important to recognize how an offensive squad builds its attack. Enter Wert. Though the 6-foot-1, 295-pound senior has the typical build of an offensive lineman, several characteristics cause him to stand out in a position that oftentimes misses the fans’ radar entirely. “It’s awesome,” says quarterback Mickey Inns when asked what it means to have Wert protecting him. “Drew has worked really hard to be as big and technically sound as he is, which really helps my confidence.” Coming from the team’s most publicly recognized player, the compliment truly acknowledges the importance of Wert’s body of work.
Inns isn’t the only one who has watched the growth of the third-year starter. Offensive line coach Doug Hire explains there is more to Wert’s character than meets the eye on the playing field. “Andrew has grown mentally, physically and emotionally over the past couple of years as a player and more importantly as a person,” says Hire. “I’m very proud of him and how he has developed, and am grateful for being able to work with and coach him.”
While Wert’s presence – both physically and emotionally – has been apparent throughout the past four years, his father, Chuck, helped pave the way for the success his son is experiencing. Wert’s father suited up for the Wildcats as a linebacker, and although he graduated in 1990, his devotion to the Linfield football program remains strong to this day. “My family has not missed a game in the four years I have been at Linfield,” says Drew, noting his parents’ attendance streak includes all of his junior varsity games.
Another former Wildcat came to mind as Wert recalled his main role models. “(2011 graduate) Aaron Heston was a guy I looked up to, because he taught me how to break down film effectively and how to not get in my own head during games,” explains Wert. Heston, a former first team all-Northwest Conference selection, provided Wert with a perfect example of the type of player he hoped to one day become.
When it comes to his role as a lineman, Wert’s objective is simple. “We play excited, emotional football, and that’s been my mindset from the start.”
Inns agrees, saying Wert “is articulate, well-spoken and an emotional leader whose approach rubs off well on the rest of the team.”
With an intellectual and hard-working leader such as Wert on their side, the Wildcats are poised to extend the seemingly-perpetual streak to a 57th season in 2012, and are on the right track coming off a season-opening 30-9 victory over Menlo. “With the proper work and focus, we have the potential to be a very good football team,” said Wert.
Hire agrees Wert’s ability and work ethic factor into how successful the Wildcats will be, saying “there’s no question his physical presence and experience will impact play calls.”
Wert plans to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He looks forward to getting a job in his field and becoming an independent adult.
Football season can be long and grueling, but no matter how it turns out in the end, when Wert walks down the commencement green and receives his degree, he will have completed much more than a program of academic study. Rather, his contributions to, and growth within, the Linfield Wildcats’ football family will be reflected not only in the performance of the team, but in the person it has shaped him to be.
-- Evan O'Kelly '13