Football dominated the senses earlier this week at the Wilkie household in Andover.
Coach Rich Wilkie, who 12 years ago built the Huskies program from scratch, watched “Monday Night Countdown” in the living room. His quarterback and son, Connor, arrived home after spending time coaching and playing with a local Special Olympics football team.
They assembled their dinner of French dip sandwiches in the kitchen where their unique football bond began many years ago over breakfast.
Rich would wake up about 5 a.m., hoping to leave for August two-a-day practices before 6-year-old Connor would rise and plead to come along. No chance.
“I’d hear the cereal bowl in the kitchen,” Rich said.
As their relationship grew through football, so too did Connor. From a wide-eyed ball boy ever-present on the sidelines to, this season, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior quarterback who ranks as one of the state’s best.
Wilkie, whose precise and powerful left arm has produced 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns in four games, leads unbeaten Andover (4-0) into Friday’s Northwest Suburban Conference showdown at Osseo (3-1).
“You’re not going to stop him,” said Osseo coach Derrin Lamker, a family friend and former quarterback himself. “You hope to contain him and take away some big plays.”
Funny to think Wilkie once balked at playing quarterback. Rich recalled his son telling him, “I don’t know if I want the pressure of the position.”
As an eighth-grader, Wilkie quarterbacked his youth team to the North Metro championship against the other Andover team, a game that created high expectations as the two squads joined together and matured into high school players in the Andover class of 2014.
Once deterred by pressure, Wilkie now welcomes it.
“If we went 6-3 this season, our team would be pretty bummed,” Wilkie said.
He hopes to create special memories, like the September night in 2006 when older brother Scott gave him a piggyback ride after Andover’s first-ever victory against traditional power Blaine. Or the October night in 2007 when he watched his favorite of all Andover quarterbacks — Wes Satzinger — rally the Huskies to an overtime comeback victory against Maple Grove.
As a ball boy catching point-after attempts or keeping game balls dry on rainy nights, Wilkie witnessed Andover’s entire football history from the sidelines.
“The first time I was ever in the stands for an Andover game was ninth grade,” Wilkie said. “It was uncomfortable.”
He wasn’t there long. Wilkie got the starting job three games into his sophomore season. He wanted to wear Satzinger’s No. 12 but got No. 11 because each Andover quarterback must wear a different number to signal a new era. The team earned a victory in his debut, but it was the lone bright spot in a 1-8 season.