COLUMBIA — Wilson Pfeiffer nervously jogged out to his position in Rock Bridge’s first game this season. The game was his first at the high school level, his first in over a year and his first at cornerback.
He wouldn’t receive much of an opportunity to get settled. Pfeiffer had to make a tackle on his first play, something that helped him get back into football mode.
“Honestly, the biggest challenge was getting back into the groove of hitting people,” he said. “I know it sounds weird. I’ve always been a physical player. But when you take a whole year off with not hitting someone, you kind of somewhat lose it. That was the hardest transition.”
A quarterback growing up, Pfeiffer, a junior, decided not to play football last season because of the Bruins' depth at that position. He instead chose to focus solely on baseball, which started a lengthy courtship with Bruins head football coach A.J. Ofodile and assistant coach Justin Conyers.
Baseball coach Justin Towe suggested Pfeiffer take a weight lifting class during the spring semester at Rock Bridge. The class was taught by Conyers, who began persuading Pfeiffer to play football, slowly at first but stronger later on.
“Halfway through the year, they (Ofodile and Conyers) were joking with me, asking me why I wasn’t playing football,” said Pfeiffer, a catcher in baseball season. “‘Was baseball really that important?’ Yeah, baseball was that important. They put the idea into my head, and I’m beating myself up, thinking why I’m not playing. I had it in the back of my head, 'What if I hadn’t quit?'
“I played football all my life. Last year was the only year I didn’t play. As a sophomore, it was one of the hardest decisions of my life to quit football.”
In March, Ofodile called Pfeiffer into his office where the two discussed playing football between 30 minutes and an hour. Pfeiffer left the meeting feeling pretty good about returning to the sport. He wouldn’t play quarterback, but he could help the team at another position with a fair chance of starting.
Pfeiffer met with both Ofodile and Towe to see how everything would work out concerning both sports, talked with his parents about the decision and academics and finally made the decision to play. With that settled, he still had to learn a new position, cornerback, over the course of a few months.
“We figured he’d be real rusty, to be honest,” Ofodile said. “We didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know if he was a JV kid or varsity kid. We didn’t know he would be a kid who could compete and win a spot immediately.”
Pfeiffer has started for the Bruins and, later in his first game, made an interception. Maybe his talent as a baseball player helped him there.
“Playing the ball in the air is like receiving the ball as a catcher,” he said. “You know what pitch is coming, but you got to block a ball in the dirt. Just like in football, you’re running with the receiver, you look back and see the ball, and you gotta react real quickly. That’s just like catcher. Reaction-wise, it’s (baseball’s) helped me a lot.”
The baseball team is doing offseason conditioning , but Pfeiffer isn’t joining his former teammates. He said he continues to work out on his own at baseball and has attended a few college showcases.
“Other than Sundays,” he said, “it’s all football.”