When Aaron Cawlfield transferred from Rock Bridge to Hickman after his freshman year, his reputation as a football player preceded him.
“We knew he was a good athlete,” Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said.
But Nesbitt didn’t know how good, and wouldn’t find out until after Cawlfield sat out his sophomore season in accordance with transfer rules.
Last year, when his junior season arrived, Cawlfield played like someone trying to make up for lost time, clarifying the depth of his potential with play that awarded him an all-state selection and the Class 6 defensive player of the year.
From his inside linebacker position, Cawlfield recorded triple-digit tackle totals and double-digit sacks, anchoring a suffocating defensive unit that yielded less than nine points a game and recorded three shutouts. Not to mention his seven blocked punts on special teams and six touchdowns as a reserve running back.
His play was so dynamic, his coach couldn’t point out just one defining attribute.
“The first thing that grabs you is the exceptional speed,” Nesbitt said. “Then you take a guy that is as competitive as anyone you’ve coached and a guy that’s physical. You put that together and you’ve got a really good football player. And that’s what he is.”
Cawlfield’s spectacular season put him on the recruiting map, currently ranked by national recruiting source Rivals.com as the 28th best safety prospect in his 2006 class. In the offseason, Cawlfield received interest, but no official offers, from Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State and Illinois.
Missouri did offer Cawlfield a scholarship, which he honored with a verbal commitment to sign this February.
Cawlfield explained his reason for committing to his hometown team.
“It’s close to home,” Cawlfield said. “I really didn’t want to move that far. I like the environment in Columbia and just knowing everybody. And I’ve always been a Tiger fan.”
For a guy with everything going for him, Cawlfield remains grounded in the reality of the present, refusing to dwell on past success.
“It’s a new year,” Cawlfield said. “We’ve got new people, a new team.”
And a new goal: winning another state title. The possibility motivates Cawlfield.
“The fact that we have another excellent team and that we can win another ring,” Cawlfield said.
Cawlfield is dedicated to making it a reality. Part of the reason for his early verbal commitment was to eliminate what could have been a distraction in his senior season.
“I just wanted to get my mind ready and focused for next season,” Cawlfield said.
Cawlfield was a regular at the team’s grueling offseason training program, which convened four times a week at 6:30 a.m. to lift weights and met an additional day to run.
His commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed by his coach.
“Great work ethic. Absolutely fabulous,” Nesbitt said. “It was good last year, it’s great this year.”
Given his decorated past and bright collegiate future, Cawlfield would have reason to become complacent in his final high school season. Instead, he sees an opportunity to improve.
“I want to be a better leader,” Cawlfield said.