COLUMBIA — When Hickman had its first football practice of the season, Eric Wise didn’t say much.
The senior defensive back had just transferred from Edgewood High School in Orlando, Fla., and was adjusting to life at Hickman High School. His coaches were forgiving of his mental mistakes since he was still new to the defense.
“The first couple days were rough, I’m not going to lie to you,” Wise said.
But in his second week of practice, Wise began to feel more comfortable. Wise started to feel the sense of community among his teammates, and coach Arnel Monroe noticed his senior’s entertaining personality beginning to shine through.
“He's vivacious, he’s a great teammate, he’s funny,” Monroe said. “But when it comes to play, all that goes to the side.”
Wise transferred to Hickman to be closer to his family. His mother and grandfather both graduated from Hickman, and Wise wanted to carry on the tradition. Wise is also cousins with Monroe and has noticed a family atmosphere around the program.
“People here aren’t individuals,” Wise said. “They all want to be successful together as a team, as a group and as a unit.
“Down in Florida, I was struggling because they only wanted to play for themselves. They didn’t care about the fans or anything. They just wanted to get themselves into college and didn’t care about anybody else. That’s why I like it here a lot better.”
The Kewpies’ defense has enjoyed his presence as well. Wise has made an instant impact on the team with his high-energy style of play and knack for causing turnovers.
In Hickman’s Week 2, 18-7 victory against Wentzville-Holt, Wise intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown. Last week, Wise sealed Hickman’s win over then-No. 2 Jefferson City with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
“His level of play speaks for itself,” Monroe said. “He came in here supercharged and ready to go.”
Wise’s impact comes predominantly on defense. But when the Kewpies are on offense, Wise can be found pacing back and forth on the Hickman sideline, encouraging teammates and eagerly waiting for the defense to take the field.
“That’s an adrenaline rush,” Wise said. “It’s just my love for the game and my love to be out there with the defense. It’s crazy. That’s what I look forward to.”
The nerves of the first few days of practice are a distant memory for Wise now. Hickman enters its bye week with a 6-0 record, and Wise says he has enjoyed a special bond with his teammates.
“They’ve been awesome,” Wise said. “They’ve been the greatest players I’ve ever played with.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.