Freshman to varsity: a challenging transition


Jevic DeVries

It was a windy, but warm summer afternoon in late August. The WO JV football team walked out of the locker stoked for their first full-contact practice. But, instead of Soph. Eric Paauwe heading out to the field with his JV teammates, he took a sharp left and landed himself on the varsity field making him one of the only sophomores to be pulled up to the next level.  

  Paauwe was reasonably nervous while jogging out onto the varsity practice field. One thing stood out to Paauwe immediately, “The size difference was something that really got to me, seeing them from afar and up close is something completely different,” said Paauwe. Playing on the offensive line Paauwe knew he was going to have to rush or pass block against players that towered over him. Paauwe’s biggest and most frequent targets to block we’re Bryan Johnson and Eli Payne. Payne,roughly 5’10” and 175 pounds and Johnson, 6’4” and 300 pounds. By stats, Johnson and Payne are much larger than Paauwe.

  Size was definitely a difference for Paauwe, but not the only one that he noticed. “Going from a choppy practice to a practice where everybody knew what they were doing, it was really smooth,” said Paauwe. “Going from freshman every single play there was always two or three players who didn’t know what they were doing and we’d have to run the same play over and over, but with varsity and those guys they all knew their assignments and it was a one and done play and we moved to the next play.” Although it is a new year, familiar faces are returning to the team. “Going forward and playing with all my old teammates this year was a blessing and a curse. Of course with the new players on varsity, they had to learn the program all over again just like I did my sophomore year, but they caught on quickly and everything started clicking fast,” said Paauwe.   

  Not only did Paauwe have to transfer teammates, coaches, and practice styles; he had to adjust to the crowds.The typical attendance for a freshman football game at WO consists mainly of parents and players’ friends. However, with the varsity team playing under the Friday night lights the stands struggle to hold up the ocean of fans and cheering parents. “It was nerve-racking looking up and seeing hundreds of people in those stands; it was a different sight,” said Paauwe on his transition to the varsity last year. Noise is another factor when it comes to attendance. Obviously more people means more noise for the team. “I tried to just zone it out trying to hear my quarterback. It wasn’t that hard but if you focused on the noise in the stands over the voice of the quarterback it was impossible to hear the cadence,” said Paauwe.

  Paauwe, in his junior year, is doing an outstanding job at right tackle as expected. Pass block, run block, or pulling Paauwe knows how to find the right player he’s supposed to block and he lays a hit on them. Expectations are always going to be high for a player like Paauwe, and he has shown no sign of regression in his junior year of varsity football.

  Keep an eye out for number 58 next week when the West Ottawa Panthers face off against Grandville High School and see Eric Paauwe make big play after big play at right tackle for the WO offense.