Smell of success

In watching Columbus North junior nose tackle Hunter Wolford, it wouldn’t be correct to say he can press two 300-pound offensive linemen over his head.

No, Wolford only bench presses a mere 385 pounds.

Even so, Bull Dogs head football coach Tim Bless certainly knows that Wolford is the strongest player on his team, and he wanted to find the perfect fit for him. What better spot than lining up over the center?

“Hunter is going to get double-teamed every snap (at nose tackle),” Bless said. “He is going to have games where they throw 560 to 600 pounds of humans at him.

“But he plays with that low center of gravity, and he’s able to utilize his strength more as a nose tackle than he did as an offensive lineman.”

At 5-foot-10, 300 pounds, Wolford already has a low center of gravity. Then add his strength to the equation, and he is an anchor that opponents can’t get out of the way.

Wolford was asked to explain what it is like to play nose tackle.

“In the nicest way I can say this: You have to get down and dirty,” Wolford said. “You have to be mean. The other team is going to throw two or more guys at you, so you just have to be mean. You can’t take a play off.”

When Bless switched Wolford from his starting spot at left guard following the 2014 season, he expected Wolford to hold his own inside. He didn’t quite expect Wolford to be making plays all over the field.

“I can tell you that he has exceeded my expectations,” Bless said. “And I can tell you that I didn’t have low expectations.”

After three games, Wolford has 19 tackles, an amazing total for a nose guard. He has a sack included in his two tackles for loss.

“It’s not all about being 200-something pounds,” Wolford said. “It takes energy and effort.

“It also takes awareness. We have great coaching, and our defensive line coach, Coach (Shane) Teague, teaches us how to read blocks. When the (offensive) line takes a step, we know where to go.”

Wolford said there is another reason has allowed him to make a lot of tackles in the first three games, a 2-1 start for North.

“At times you get lucky, being at the right place at the right time,” he said.

The junior said he does miss playing for his offensive line coach, Aaron Karrer, along with his former offensive line mates. He also noted that he was quarterback Triston Perry’s center at Central Middle School.

These days, though, Wolford has landed a spot on a very special defensive line. Junior defensive tackle Coleman Tennyson, junior defensive end Spencer West and senior defensive end Drew Schoeberl make up one of the top units in the state.

“I absolutely love this,” Wolford said. “My freshman year, I played on the defensive line with Coleman and Spencer. My mom (Sandy Proffitt) says that we are the ‘Bash Brothers’ again.”

Bless said that unit pride can drive players to new heights.

“Being a playmaker absolutely is contagious,” Bless said. “So is playing with a high motor. And then they want to hold up their end of the deal.”

Wolford has more than held up his end of the deal despite not being one of the faster players on the team.

“We can’t affect his height or the length of his arms,” Bless said. “But he is very well-suited for the position he plays, and he does have quickness. He does a good job filling his gap, and then in pursuit of the football.”

His height might eventually keep him from playing major college football, but he is attracting interest from smaller school programs. Right now he is going to concentrate on the task at hand, playing at Franklin Central on Friday.

What does he love best about playing high school football?

“Family,” he said. “You can’t get closer than you do in Bull Dogs football. You can’t ever get a family like your football family.”

At a glance

Hunter Wolford

SCHOOL: Columbus North

YEAR: Junior

POSITION: Nose tackle

SIZE: 5-foot-10, 300 pounds

STATISTICS: 3 games, 19 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack

NEXT UP: Columbus North at Franklin Central on Friday at 7 p.m.