Favorite athlete: Brian Dawkins
Favorite Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Coming back to beat our rivals on Thanksgiving my junior year
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Forgetting my cleats for my first away game as a sophomore
Music on iPod: Rap and hip/hop
Future plans: Attend college and play football
Words to live by: "Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough." Og Mandino
One goal before turning 30: Graduate college with a plan to succeed in life
One thing people don't know about me: I enjoy water sports.
By GORDON GLANTZ
It was the ultimate night to remember for Quakertown’s Noah Wood.
After starting the 2016 season with three losses – a lopsided one to Archbishop Ryan, followed by frustrating setbacks to nearby rivals Souderton and CB West – the Panthers opened league play against Wissahickon.
Being the admitted vocal leader who is at the epicenter of the pre-game rituals, he went on the field and put the team on his 5-7 and 170-pound frame and literally carried the Panthers into the winner’s circle.
A three-year starter at inside linebacker, Wood made his first major impact as a running back, toting the rock 21 times for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was my game of the season,” said the Univest Featured Athlete. “It was pretty cool. It was my first big game.”
Wood also had a huge defensive performance with 12 tackles, including five for losses, and a pair of sacks, adding “it was pretty crazy.”
And it was most meaningful, he says, because it was the game of a lifetime in a win when wins seemed elusive after two seasons where the Panthers had double-digits (11-2 in 2014 and 10-3 in 2015) in the W column.
Following the victory against Wissahickon, the Panthers fell to Upper Dublin and stand at 1-4.
“We’ve had a little bit of a change of events,” he said. “We lost 18 starters, so we are playing a lot of younger players. I’m one of only four returning starters.”
Still, he has the perspective of one twice his age.
“We’ve been in every game,” he said. “We’ve just had some trouble finishing games. Other than that, though, it is so much fun to come out every Friday night with your friends and play in front of your family.”
And if you shake the Wood family tree, a bunch of footballs will fall out in place of leaves.
Grandfather, Arthur, played for Pennridge. Dad, Todd, played for Souderton. Before Wood suited up for Quakertown, the bitter rival of both Pennridge and Souderton, older brother, Luke, played for the Panthers before moving on to Wilkes University.
While his family leads the cheering section in the bleachers, he also has a fan in head coach George Banas.
“What can I tell you about Noah,” said Banas, who gave Wood the opportunity to start and call the defensive signals as a sophomore. “He is an absolute warrior. He is our leader -- physically and mentally -- on and off the field. I still cannot believe the output we are getting from him, both defensively and offensively, this year. We have put a lot of pressure on him this year, Noah has never complained and just shows up to work every day. At times, I almost feel bad for him because I know he is hurting but I also know he would never want to come out of the game.
“Noah is a three-year starter at ILB, arguably the toughest position to play, and has received all league honors as a sophomore and junior. This year he is also starting at RB and has done a great job carrying the rock for us.”
Wood realizes his importance to squad, and knows that too much time on the sideline would diminish that role.
Despite his diminutive stature, he is looked up to by his young teammates. That is not a responsibility he is about to shirk.
“Yeah, definitely,” he confirmed. “I feel like I have to get the team ready to go. I say the speech in the end zone and break the team down when we huddle on the sideline.”
He has found that it is best to hold his younger and more inexperienced teammates accountable for their actions during games but to pick them back up again and rebuild their egos during the week.
“Honestly, we’ve done a lot of growing up,” he said. “When we’re in there (during games), it’s more tough love. I’ll say, ‘we need you to make those plays’ but I try to stay positive, for the most part. I just keep leading and making sure they are in the right place.”
The Final Bout
When football season ends, the right place for Wood will be wrestling as a 180-pounder for coach Kurt Handel.
A year ago, Wood played the end of the football season on a bum knee that needed MCL surgery after the season.
Because of the injury and recovery, which solidified his interest in orthopedic medicine, Wood missed a good portion of the season and didn't get as far in the postseason as he would have liked. He ended up reinjuring the knee, which meant a second surgery and rehab of 6-7 weeks, at the end of wrestling season.
“Wrestling is different than football,” said Wood. “You don’t have 10 other guys to fall back on. It’s just you and the other person. It requires a lot of mental toughness.”
Handel has zero doubts that Wood will make his final season in competitive wrestling one to remember.
“Noah is the whole package from a head coach’s perspective,” said the coach. “He is a leader who leads by example and is just a hard worker. He makes everyone around him want to work harder, they don't want to let him down!
"Academically he's a NHS student who has aspirations to be a doctor. On top of being an incredible student-athlete, he is the kindest, most respectful, well-mannered young man you could meet. He comes from a great family who is at every game supporting Noah and the team.”
And when he wrestles his final bout, it will be his final bout.
Wood began playing football – and wrestling – at a young age, but is hopeful he can attract interest from a Division III school with a strong pre-med program and continue his football career.
“I’ve also wrestled since I was five,” he said. “But, in college, it’s a whole other animal of its own. It’s a whole different game and very intense.”
He expects to know more about extending his football career once the season ends but is prepared to attend Penn State or Pitt as a civilian.
“I’m trying to talk to schools, but it's more after the season with Division III schools,” he said. “If I don’t play, it’s not going to be the end of the world.
“But I’m still waiting to see what comes my way.”
It is a reality he would have to eventually face anyway, but one that can be softened by staying near sports – while feeding his need to help others – in sports medicine.
“I’m going to miss being an athlete,” he said, “but I always wanted to help people. For me, it would be easy work to do.”
Off the Field
Athletic attributes aside, Wood is a member in good standing of the Quakertown school community, taking part in the Best Buddies program.
“It is just students helping other students with disabilities,” said Wood, who said he has spent time with his “buddy” playing miniature golf and grabbing a bite to eat. “We just hang out when we’re outside of school and spend time with the kids.”
That good will is extended to the Quakertown area, as Wood has remained with the same group of youngsters – now 90-pounders (9-10 years old) – as a youth football coach.
The stint with the Quakertown Midget Football Association begins in the middle of the summer and will last at least halfway into the current season.
“Once a week, I head over when we get done practice,” said Wood, who also works at Giant as a cashier. “I’ve had the same group of kids, so I really enjoy it.
“They all came out to a game and watched me. When I went to practice, they were all talking about the game. It was really cool. They all look up to me.”
Somewhere in there, he finds time to get his schoolwork done.
“You just have to get your priorities straight,” he said. “I write down what I have to do and where I have to be, and then I just put my mind to it.”
Still, he realizes he was set up to succeed and is doing his part.
“I have to thank my parents and my grandparents,” he said. “Without my whole family supporting me, I couldn’t have achieved anything. I also have to thank coach Banas for always being there to help me, and not just with football. He has taught me so many life lessons. I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity, especially for the chance to start as a sophomore.”
For Banas, the pleasure has been all his.
“Off the field he is such a personable kid that is easy to talk with," the Panthers' coach said. "He is mature, funny and yet caring all at the same time. He takes his academics very serious and his GPA shows it.
“It is without question that Noah will be a success in whatever he chooses to do in life because of his dedication, work ethic, grit, resolve and personality.