TAMPA — In most cases, size is only a benefit in the game of football. But when Gage Wilcox was 11 years old, it began to be a detriment.
Wilcox began playing at the age of 5 for the East Bay Buccaneers, but as he got older, Wilcox was bigger than all the other kids. Because his youth football league had weight limits, Wilcox was going to have to play with kids nearing their high school football careers when he was just 11 years old.
Wilcox’s mother, Nanette, decided he should take a little break from the sport.
“I was so big, I was probably 12 or 13 playing with 15-year-olds,” Gage Wilcox said. “My mom, she wasn’t really happy with it because they were a lot bigger and more aggressive.”
So during his time away from the gridiron, Wilcox took up baseball, and he excelled at that, too, playing catcher and first base for Hit Factory Pro in Tampa, a travel team that was nationally ranked.
Wilcox also played baseball during his freshman year at Jefferson High. But when it came time to choose which sport got his focus, it was a no-brainer.
And there’s no doubt the Dragons will benefit from his choice.
Wilcox plays tight end and defensive end for Jefferson, and the size he had as an 11 year old continues to make him stand out. Now 6 feet 4 and 228 pounds, Wilcox said his goal is to record as many sacks as he does touchdowns this season.
And though his mother — who has worked as a nurse and director of Patient Care Services at St. Joseph’s Heart Institute for 20 years — used to be wary about his safety in football, she’s now excited for her son’s future in the sport.
“I just want to make sure he takes precautions, has a good helmet, drinks water, conditions hard, stays as physically fit and healthy as he can,” Nanette Wilcox said. “I’m one of those moms where, if it’s what he wants to do, I’m not going to stand in his way.”
And these days, it seems as if Wilcox’s football career will see some longevity.
The four-star recruit has caught lots of college attention as of late, and he has offers from Alabama, Florida and Georgia, among many others. Wilcox has already started taking visits, but plans to take a lot more before he makes his final decision, one that will include a consideration of a school’s academics and health care resources as well as their football team, he said.
Wilcox is still surprised about how fast his recruiting blew up once he took up football again. His mother, on the other hand, wasn’t as shocked,
Every day, Nanette Wilcox watches her son head off to the weight room at 6 a.m., and he comes home from school to work on agility drills in the front yard or throw the football with neighbors.
“His mental game has gotten a lot stronger, and now he’s focused on getting bigger and maintaining his speed,” she said. “He loves routine, and so he just does it. He grinds every day.”