Starting REL QB loves game, other passions
It’s an important year for Robert E. Lee quarterback Ijenea Wooley.
The senior Gander has come into a new season with expectations soaring for him and a team that opens its campaign 7 p.m. Friday against Westbury at Houston’s Butler Stadium.
The reigning District 12 – 5A II Offensive Most Valuable Player, Wooley will have to take some big steps to better his 2018 performance.
He finished the year with 3,300-plus yards by going 153-for-267 passing (57 percent completion percentage) and 2,439 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He also ran for 877 yards on 115 carries – 7.6 yards-per-rush – and 12 more touchdowns.
Now? He expects a big encore and to be one of the team’s top players once again.
“It’s about my mindset,” Wooley said. “Last year I didn’t expect to be as good as I was. Now? I expect to go out there and dominate every night. I expect for me to be a level three guy here.”
According to head coach Tim Finn, the Ganders couldn’t have a more ideal person leading the way.
“He is a good leader, dependable, responsible and the best way to describe him is as team chaplain,” Finn said. “Before and after the game he leads us in the team prayer. He’s just that kind of, all-around good kid. He has good attendance and attitude.”
That includes Wooley’s coachability.
“The big thing for him is if he can just execute the offense like he’s coached to do, he’s going to have some success,” Finn said. “Last year, if we protected him he showed he can stay in the pocket and deliver the football. The accuracy is improved in delivering the football and he’s got some good people there catching it.
“We have some designed runs for him because he’s a threat running the football also. He’s your typical, dual-threat quarterback. Also, the most dangerous thing about him is that he can create plays when they break down. I call that a triple threat. When things don’t look good, he can still make things happen.”
Wooley is a grounded young man who admits he doesn’t listen to the outside noise or just ignores it as he tries to improve himself.
“I have always been a cool, collected, smiling type,” Wooley said. “It’s the simple things and mistakes that I should work on every day and be better than what I am.”
It has been a process for Wooley who went from precocious sophomore to recruited senior seeing anyone from Power 5 NCAA Division I programs to Football Championship Series teams inquire about his services.
“As a sophomore he had happy feet and he would anticipate things breaking down and take off and scramble,” Finn said. “Now he trusts his teammates and they have improved around him.”
Maybe it’s because he had learned to balance winning with trust and football with a part of a bigger picture.
“It’s bigger than football,” Wooley said. “Football is a way to pay for my school. If it happens it happens. I am going to work for it because I want it, but it’s never been my goal. I love football, but I want to be a special education teacher.”
His inspiration is his autistic cousin that has provided him with the drive to work in that field.
“I love her,” Wooley said. “She can’t say anybody else’s name, but she can say mine. That makes me …”
In the meantime, it’s always about bettering himself.
“My focus this season is improving my completion percentage,” Wooley said. “Last year it was probably negative something.”