COLUMBIA — West Wilson heads to the sidelines for water and gently takes off his football helmet.
His long blond hair slowly emerges, sprouting above his thick white headband in all directions. Wilson, a safety on the Rock Bridge football team, whips his hair back in one quick motion and reveals a smile.
No. 10 Rock Bridge (3-1)
at No. 1 Rockhurst (4-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Kansas City
“He needs a haircut,” Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile said. “He needs to lose the headband and get a haircut, so he can lose the headband.”
Wilson runs his hands carefully through his hair as he takes a sip of water.
“He wears these headbands everywhere that make him look like a girl,” Bruce Wilson, West's father, said. “He doesn’t care.”
West gives his hair one more shake.
“The number one thing that people like is the headband,” West Wilson said, running his hands once again through his hair. “I like to stand out a little bit.”
West Wilson, a 16-year-old junior, likes to listen to a pregame playlist that includes "Party in the U.S.A." He constantly teases the opposing team. He has matching cleats and gloves. And he doesn’t take football too seriously.
“Some people will be serious just because they feel like they have to,” he said. “Captains feel like they have to tell everyone to shut up, or you have to be quiet and focused all the time. Being loose and having fun is OK.”
Playing football for Rock Bridge is something West Wilson has always wanted to do.
“The kid was born living, breathing, dying Rock Bridge High School,” his father said, who previously coached for the Bruins. “That’s sort of the cool thing, is that he’s wanted to play football for them since he was about 3 years old. So it’s kind of a big deal. It’s a dream come true from him.”
West Wilson’s early passion for Rock Bridge football easily translates to the field.
“We’ve got some guys that come out here and play, and it’s just a thing, and they really don’t ever watch football. They never think much about it when they leave here,” Ofodile said. "He’s a kid that is really into it on every level. He’s a safety. He’s a quarterback on the defensive side of the field.”
But West Wilson has another role. He makes people smile and keeps everyone loose.
“He’s a funny guy. He’s kind of a little bit of a quirky guy,” Ofodile said. “He’s got his own really unique personality."
And he gets a lot of attention for it.
“Most of it's with love. I haven’t gotten anything too bad from it. But if they notice it, that’s what I’m going for,” West Wilson said.
Although some might think he cares too much about his image, he just likes to have a good time.
“He’s concerned about the way his gloves look and how his cleats match,” Bruce Wilson said, laughing. “But at the same time, the togetherness of football is really perfect for him. The game of football is more than the sport itself for him. It’s all the people around him.”
With one last shake, West Wilson dips his head.
Silky blond hair creates a curtain around him. He carefully places his helmet on, avoiding his headband at all costs, and trots back to the field.