Ex-Hornet wideout Strickland rebrands with D-III North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops

Weeki Wachee  graduate Brian Strickland recently signed a letter- of-intent to play D-III football with North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops.

Set county records for career

two-point attempts (19),

most 2-point conversions (15)

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

 

Brian Strickland

Weeki Wachee Hornets wide receiver/defensive back Brian Andrew Strickland felt – at times – like he was the proverbial Maytag repair man.

You know the guy that everyone goes to when things aren’t working right, but is always there when they’re not.

The sleek built – 6-foot-3, 185-pounder – demonstrated moments of brilliance this past prep football season for the 4-6 Hornets under Jacob Gray.

He says he felt under-utilized.

In his first full season as a starter, he hauled in 22 receptions for 291 receiving yards and tallied three touchdowns.

His reception total ranked high locally – third overall – in the county. His yardage ranked seventh-best.

Without casting stones toward any of his teammates – he says – that he caught more targeted passes and had less drops than member of the Hornets’ “Golden Group” of receivers.

For an athlete who snared exactly one pass – for 13 yards against lowly Gulf in 2017 – that was the extent of his stats prior to last season.

When Coach Gray noticed how well he caught direct snaps, he was inserted into the Hornets’ Wildcat offensive package.

The US-19 crew basically ran the Wildcat after each touchdown this year after its place-kicker Luis Guardiola graduated the year before.

From the ’Cat, Strickland proved useful and efficient.

He totaled 19 two-point conversion attempts and converted 15 times (79 percent).

For his efforts, he rewrote the Hernando County record book for both categories.

Then there was his uncanny propensity to make big plays.

In another trademark for Coach Gray – his kickoff team normally squib kicked.

Strickland was “officially” credited with a team-best fumble recoveries.

Yet, Strickland says against Fivay, he recovered five onside kicks and finished with eight kick recoveries for the season.

In the secondary, he put to use his tremendous set of soft hands.

Besides collecting 53 tackles – to rank fourth on the team – he points to his county-leading six interceptions.

Sure, NCT ball hawks = Shemar Lawson and Kinyatah Morgan – each also recorded six picks, but they both played 13 games.

In 10 games, Strickland swiped a team-best six interceptions including a pair against Gulf and one each against Crystal River, Central, NCT and Lecanto High.

Against the Panthers, Strickland swiped the ball on the first play of the game against LHS and dashed 63 yards for a pick-six.

That was only one of his county-leading three defensive touchdowns.

The two other scores arrived against Gulf with pick-sixes on Senior Night.

By comparison, the 11-2 NCT squad, scored once on a defensive touchdown by Morgan.

Following football, Strickland walked on to the WWHS wrestling room.

Brian Strickland                                                                                                                                                       Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

In his initial varsity mat campaign, he turned out to be a natural under Dan Gigantelli recording a 35-11 slate (76 percent) highlighted by 21 pins.

Despite being a late bloomer, he parlayed his gridiron and wrestling success into an official visit to Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

He had entertained offers from D-III Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, and NAIA’s University of Pikeville, Kentucky, before signing with the D-III Battling Bishops from North Carolina Wesleyan College.

Weeki Wachee’s Brian Strickland weaves through the Gulf High defense.                                                  Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Strickland 411

Brian was born in Charleston, West Virginia to Gary and Gina Strickland.

Tragically, Brian’s mother passed away when he was two.

Brian also says he never really knew his father.

He was adapted by his uncle.

Brian’s family has called Hernando County home for years. They currently live in Hernando Beach.

Tracing his athletic roots, Strickland’s initial organized sport was flag football with the West Hernando Cougars at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill at 4 years old.

He padded up with the Cougars at 5 and played in the local rec league until he was 10.

He alternated playing several positions including running back, quarterback, wide receiver and safety.

In middle school, he attended Fox Chapel.

He played football as a sixth-grader.

As a seventh-grader he was a member of the football and basketball teams for the Tigers.

Fox Chapel Tigers

As an eighth-grader, again he played football and basketball.

He matriculated to Weeki Wachee for high school but didn’t play any sports as a freshman.

As a sophomore, he played junior varsity football and before being promoted to the varsity squad for the last three games.

As a junior and a senior, he earned a pair of varsity letters in football under Coach Gray.

He also was a member of the weightlifting team as a junior and wrestled as a senior.

Outside of athletics, Strickland maintained a 3.2 unweighted and 3.35 weighted grade point average.

His favorite courses on the Vespa Way campus included English III with Mrs. Gigantelli, Algebra II with Joe Felice and science with Ryan Wilson.

Passion for football

The raven-tressed and brown-eyed Strickland explained his passion for football.

“My favorite sport has to be football,” shared the 18-year-old Strickland. “The game is so electrifying. It’s a game where you never know what’s gonna happen on the next play.”

Strickland describes himself as an offensive guy.

“Listen, I like playing defense, but scoring touchdowns is what it’s all about. I always wondered why I wasn’t given much of a chance to see the ball until this year. Maybe they thought they had better kids.”

Despite setting the county records for two-pointers, recording six picks and scoring three defensive touchdowns, “I wish I would’ve had more touches,” stressed Strickland. “Coach (Gray) would tell me, ‘You better catch the ball, or otherwise learn to play guard.’ I’m a competitive guy. Me and Sebastian (Class) are extremely competitive.

“… It’s great that we both ended signing with the same school and we’re gonna room together, too. It’s good to know someone from the old neighborhood.”

Mirror, mirror

Describing his style of play, “I feel like I’m an aggressive player,” noted Strickland. “It’s a fast game. When you get the ball, you’ve got to take advantage.

“Offensively, I thought our team had a lot weapons this year,” added Strickland. “Problem was we didn’t have a lot of guys on the roster, so a lot of us went both ways and played special teams.

“I give big props to the big guys up front for giving (Vaughn) Sykora time to throw the ball. Sykora was a hit or miss kinda guy. He got better after splitting time with Diante (Thomas) the year before.”

On his prowess on two-pointers, “Two-pointers were important, especially after we lost our kicker,” explained Strickland. “I remember I was running the scout offense and caught a few direct snaps with the Wildcat.

“Coach must have liked what he saw. He stuck me on two-pointers from there on out.”

As far as regents, “Yeah, I wish, I would’ve been targeted more. The most drops I had was three. I thought I should’ve been thrown to more. I did mostly hitches and slants.

“Game-wise, we should’ve beaten Crystal River. I had chance for a late interception that I couldn’t hold on to.

“…I definitely believe had we played Citrus on the Friday that was rained out, we would’ve beaten them. The game got postponed until Monday. We came out flat, flat and just fell apart. I wish we could have had that game back,” said Strickland.

“… I remember playing Hernando. It was a game where our defense just didn’t show up. Our O-line had trouble against their D-line,” shared Strickland.

On what stood out, “I just loved the environment. We didn’t have the best record,” pointed out Strickland. “But we weren’t terrible either. There was such an extreme bond with the guys on this team. I know I’ll never forget them.”

Biggest regret?

“Probably that I didn’t push hard enough to be a better offensive player,” emphasized Strickland.

On his biggest lesson learned, “To enjoy every moment because nothing lasts forever,” noted Strickland.

Selecting the Bishops

“When I visited Wesleyan, I went up there with Sebastian. “We were both impressed with the community support. It’s not a big town or a big school, but they care.

Sebastian Class

“…It just seemed like a great place to go to school and play for. Having Sebastian there didn’t hurt.“

“Having Sebastian there was the deal breaker,“ added Strickland. “We’re both so competitive. We’re always going at each other. He gives me the drive to do my best.”

Strickland plans on a career in business management.

Though he’s undecided at exactly what his future endeavor will be, he’d like to own a business.

Position-wise, Strickland expects to be plugged in at either wide receiver or tight end.

On playing in a much colder climate, “I don’t think it’ll effect either of us,” shrugged Strickland. “Athletes adapt to their environment. We’ll have to add a few layers of clothes – that’s all.”

On what’s standing in the way of Strickland’s perceived success, “Just making sure my priorities are always in order,” he replied.
“I can’t lose sight of this opportunity.”

Before heading up to Wesleyan on Aug. 1, Strickland will stay fit running along the trails at the Weeki Wachee Preserve and working out the different muscle groups 2-3 a week at Planet Fitness.

For spending cashing, he’ll continue working at the local gas station.

Before setting off to Rocky Mount, “I ‘d like to be remembered as a great guy and a great athlete.”

By the Numbers:

Weeki Wachee’s Brian Strickland (2017-18)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

RECEIVING

Brian Strickland
 

YEAR

 

REP

 

YDS

 

YPC

 

TD

 

LG

 

HG

2017

1

13

13.0

0

13 @ GF

1/13 @ GF

2018

22

291

13.2

3

32 vs. FIV

4/108 vs. FIV

 

TOTS

 

23

 

304

 

13.2

 

3

 

32 vs. FIV

 

4/108 vs. FIV

* Denotes touchdown.

SCORING

 

YEAR

 

TD

 

PAT

 

2-PT

 

FG

 

SF

 

TP

2018

7

0

15/19

0

0

72

 

TOT

 

7

 

0

 

15/19

 

0

 

0

 

72

DEFENSE

 

YEAR

 

SOL

 

AST

 

TTK

 

TBL

 

SK

 

QBP

 

CF

 

FR

 

PB

 

BK

 

INT

2017

0

0

20

5.0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

2018

14

39

53

3.0

0

0

0

5

1

0

5***

 

TOT

 

14

 

39

 

73

 

8.0

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

5

 

3

 

0

 

5***

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