LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. -- Stevenson senior middle linebacker Brion Wood is one of coach Bill McNamara’s favorite players for the obvious reasons.
Wood leads the team with 105 tackles. He’s dropped seven quarterbacks for sacks. He’s forced four fumbles. He also understands Stevenson’s defense as well as anyone and can read offensive formations in an instant.
McNamara is no different than any coach in that respect. Anyone would gladly accept a player with Wood’s athleticism and intelligence.
What separates Wood from that everyday star and what McNamara also greatly admires is his ability to have fun and remain relaxed no matter what is happening on the field. Whether Stevenson is up big or it is attempting to make a goal-line stand in a close ball game, Wood, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, is always enjoying himself.
“Sometimes in big games or in very tense moments, kids might get quiet or might get shy or might be really focused on what their responsibilities are,” McNamara said. “Brion’s not afraid to talk, not afraid to crack a joke, not afraid to keep guys loose, and he still performs. It’s pretty rare you get a kid like Brion Wood. He’s a very unique player.
“He has a lot of fun on the field. He really enjoys being out there. Every day you’re around Brion Wood is a great day. He’s a special, special player and he’s a special person.”
To Wood, he isn’t doing anything particularly special. He has an unconditional love for football that isn’t dictated by what occurs from one play to the next.
“I’m playing football to have fun,” said Wood, whose first name is spelled uniquely in the memory of his uncle Brion. “That’s my ultimate goal -- to have as good of a time as possible. When I find an opportunity to make a joke get kids laughing, I do that.”
While Wood’s ability to keep things light helps his teammates, it’s his other skills – his speed, tackling, reading of plays, etc. -- that especially relax his coaches.
“He does a lot for us,” McNamara said of 6-3, 210-pound linebacker. “He’s basically another coach on the field. He’s a very smart young man. He scored a 33 on the ACT. When we need to make adjustments or an opposition comes out with a unique formation, he has the ability to line us up correctly and be ready to play football. He’s able to combine the physical and mental parts of the game.”
That’s especially been true of Wood this season. After starting and playing well the last two years on varsity, Wood wanted to take his game to another level for his final season. In the offseason, he dedicated himself more than ever. He lifted more. He ran more. He watched film more.
And now with Stevenson possessing a 10-0 record and being one of the favorites in the Class 8A playoffs, Wood feels his extra effort was all worth it.
“I just wanted to make sure I was in the best possible shape to be successful this year,” said Wood, who will play at Penn next year.
McNamara doesn’t have a doubt about that.
“I think what made this a special year for him is that he had an incredible offseason,” McNamara said. “He really trained to make his body physically ready for the demanding football season. And you know, he has the mentally capability to go along with the physical attributes.
“He’s put it all together for us. He’s the whole package. He’s had an exceptional year for Stevenson football.”