Hagen Wilkey is the kind of high school athlete that every coach in the world would like to have a dozen just like him.
He's the ultimate team player.
For example, he started out last fall as the starting quarterback for the Red Bank Lions and had an outstanding opening game against Soddy Daisy. Coach Tim Daniels felt like Wilkey's talent could better be used a other positions, so he moved to wide receiver where he was the third-leading receiver for the Lions.
He also played effectively as a linebacker and at times, defensive end.
Fast forward to 2012 and Wilkey is back at his favorite position. Now a slender 6-3, 205-pounder, Wilkey is still just a kid as he won't celebrate his 17th birthday until Aug. 24, the day as the season opener against that same Soddy Daisy team.
"Quarterback is my favorite position as I'm in control. I like to be the one everyone is looking at," Wilkey said after a recent afternoon practice.
"I've been to quarterback camps at Duke, UTC and MTSU and I feel like I understand the game better now. Even though I feel like I have a strong arm and can deliver almost any pass, I still like to scramble at times.
""We've had great talent in the past and we have some outstanding athletes this year. My goal is to take each game and do my job to perfection so we can come out with a victory. I think everyone is underestimating the Lions, but we have a chance to be a pretty good football team," Wilkey added.
E.K. Slaughter is starting his first season as the Red Bank head coach after spending the last three seasons as the head man in Cleveland. Slaughter has been fortunate to be associated with some outstanding high school quarterbacks and he puts Wilkey right up there at the top of the list.
"Hagen means a lot to our football team as he does a good job of managing our offense. He's dependable and hard working and he cares about the young men around him," Slaughter said.
"Physically, he's a dual threat as he's not slow on his feet. He's getting better on his reads and he can make the plays on the field. He's a good example of what character is all about as he's a good kid and I never have to worry about him.
"I've been lucky as I've been spoiled with good quarterbacks. All are good people, but I can trust Hagen. There's no doubt in my mind that he can play at the next level as he can make every throw. Our play book is wide open with him at quarterback and that's not always the case.
"We play in a very tough district. Unlike a lot of players, he's not on an emotional rollercoaster. He's steady and consistent. We're counting on him to come through in a big way this fall," Slaughter concluded.
Jake Ledbetter was one of those Red Bank quarterbacks in years past that Slaughter was referring to.
Ledbetter is now the quarterback coach for the Lions, so he knows from first-hand experience what Wlkey is capable of doing.
"I've enjoyed getting to know him this summer and he's going to be a good one," Ledbetter began.
"We can be successful if he has a good year, but he has a good attitude and he's getting better every day. He's ready to learn and everything has gone well so far.
"Hagen is an athlete. He can throw it well and he's a tough runner too. He's one of those kids who leaves everything he's got on the field when Friday night arrives. He's got good size and he has plenty of potential.
"We've had a pretty good pre-season and we're getting there," Ledbetter concluded.
While Red Bank opens its season with a home game Friday against Soddy Daisy, the Lions open district play on Aug. 31 with another home game against East Ridge.
The second district contest comes at home on Sept. 14 against Hixson before playing the next four games on the road, starting with Cleveland, Central, Brainerd and Howard.
The regular season ends for Red Bank with two home games against pre-season favorites East Hamilton and Tyner on Oct. 19 and 26.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)