It's another summer morning for West Forsyth rising senior Joey Congrove.
He wakes up without the assistance of the crickets chirping outside. Before the sun comes up, he grabs a healthy bite to eat, throws on some light clothes, and heads to school.
So goes the summer schedule for any high schooler trying to make a splash on the varsity football team, but this time — his fourth — Congrove doesn't resent the early mornings, or the fact that he can't relax at the pool. When the morning workouts are over around noon, he'll stick around with his fellow teammates to iron out any nuances that arose during practice.
“We have to plan our entire day around football. We get here at 7:45 a.m., then don't leave until about 11:30 a.m. We have to stay healthy. We have to eat right,” Congrove said. “We've got a new weight-lifting coach too who has brought a lot to the table and helped us out getting stronger. We've been working harder than I've ever seen us work.”
This season, in more ways than one, things will be different. Congrove got a taste of football glory last season when the Wolverines upset eventual region champion South Forsyth, 38-34, after an unbelievable comeback. And yet, the Wolverines finished third in Region 6-AAAAAA, then fell in a blowout in the first round of the playoffs against Peachtree Ridge.
Balancing big wins and tough losses, West head coach Adam Clack wanted to make sure his team would be in top condition, but also prepared more than ever between the ears when the 2016 season kicks off.
Congrove and the other rising seniors have heard the message loud and clear—they don't just want to be good again (West has gone 7-4, 6-4 and 7-4 in the last three seasons). They want to be great.
That's why Congrove, who finished third on the team in tackles with 62 and defended a team-leading 13 passes last season, with one interception, is spending the offseason learning a new position—running back.
He's also repositioning himself in the locker room, making sure to build camaraderie between the upperclassmen and younger players.
“In the past years each class has kind of been in their own little bubble,” Congrove said. “It's gotten better each year, but we've got leaders this year on both sides, on and off the field. A bunch of seniors are offering spectacular leadership—more so than it has been in the past.
“Getting to be with the team and have a chance to make that bond, that's what makes a team great. It's what pushes us to the next level.”
Congrove has received mentorship learning running back from last year's top carrier Grant Torgerson, who is training more as a linebacker.
“He's a three-year veteran and he's been great helping me out. He wants me to get better, I can go to him for everything. Getting a new position is definitely a challenge but my coaches and teammates are helping me get ready for it,” Congrove said. “Having everyone learning more than one position is going to be a great strength.”
Even though Congrove might rack up more carries and touchdowns than pass breakups in 2016, he's still showed enough athleticism to gain attention of college coaches. On June 7 he received his first college offer from Stetson—it's a non-scholarship spot, but the start of what Congrove hopes is a busy year as he prepares to find out where he'll take his next step.
“Getting a college offer is something I've been working hard for a long time,” Congrove said. “It's kind of a weight off my shoulders, now that I can quit worrying about that as much, but it's motivation to keep going, to keep working, and I know a lot of kids will be getting offers soon so that's a big part of it. Everyone is working for that.”
With future offers in mind, Congrove realizes that the more versatile he is, the better.
“I've been working on my speed a lot. I've gotten my strength up way more than it has ever been. I'm more well-rounded this year than I ever have been, and I hope it pays off,” Congrove said. “It's a lot of working out, working out muscles I never have before.”
Still, the mindset of Congrove is where the most change is occurring.
“This is a big year,” Congrove said. “We fully expect to be region champs.”