Wesley’s Ebron still playing both because of and for Drass

DOVER — Like he’d done thousands of times before, Vince Ebron looked to the sideline for the defensive signals.

In that instant, during a Wesley College football scrimmage on Thursday, the senior defensive end expected to see coach Mike Drass looking back at him.

Instead, it was the Wolverines’ new defensive coordinator, Joe Bottiglieri, signaling from the sidelines.

“I’m waiting for him (Drass) to walk in here right now,” Ebron said during a media gathering on Friday. “Not hearing his voice is unreal right now. … I can still feel his spirit. His spirit is always here with us.”

As Wesley continues to adjust to life without Drass, the veteran head coach who died in May, the process is a little different for everyone.

Vince Ebron

While it’s been three months since Drass passed away, his loss has really hit home now that the Wolverines are in preseason camp.

But it’s an especially personal experience for Ebron, who literally wouldn’t be playing football right now if it weren’t for Drass.

While he had redshirted his second season, Ebron had assumed last fall was his final season on the field.

As Ebron was walking to his job last March, however, he got a call from Drass.

“He was like, ‘Hey, I think you may have another year,’ ” said Ebron. “ ‘I’m going to check again just to make sure but that’s what I’m getting on my computer.’ He called me back a couple days later and told me, ‘You’ve got another year. What do you want to do?’

“I’m like, ‘I’m going to call you back, I’m going to talk to my mom,” he continued. “My mom later tells me that he already talked to her.”

Ebron had already rejoined the squad when news came that Drass had died. It’s made him want to work even harder to do something with the extra season that Drass helped give him.

“It really hit me hard,” said Ebron. “After that I was like, OK, I really have to work out.”

Ebron’s return adds even more depth to an already talented Wesley defensive line.

Sophomore defensive end Lee Woodruff (St. Georges) was the New Jersey Athletic Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year last fall while senior tackle Nick Glover (Dover) was a third-team All-NJAC pick. Shymere Vessells (Woodbridge), Cam Miles and Tyler Tate are also looking to make an impact.

“It’s pretty scary for opposing offenses,” coach Chip Knapp said early in camp. “We can come at you with — right now — three defensive lines that are as good as anybody’s. We haven’t seen that level of talent — that depth — in a while. There’s some guys that just look like they have a great future.”

Ebron is one of those guys who had to wait for his opportunity. He only played sparingly in his freshman year before redshirting the next.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder now can laugh at how much smaller he looks in pictures from his freshman year. He’s grown into a leader that the Wolverines know they can count on.

“I tell the freshman, you come from high school starting,” said Ebron. “But you come to college and not everyone starts their freshman year. You’ve got to keep working.

“You’re going to have moments were you’re going to be like, ‘Well, all right, I’m not playing. I’m going to get lazy.’ But you have to just keep working because it pays off in the end. Look where I’m at now? It paid off for me.”

Of course, Drass had a lot to do with developing Ebron into the man he is now as a fifth-year senior. Ebron would like to repay his former coach by putting everything he has into this season.

“We talk about him on the field a lot — ‘We probably would have gotten yelled at already for this,’” said Ebron. “Practice has been intense but it’s just different.

“Especially him making me a captain my last season, which I never expected, there’s definitely a feeling like we don’t want to let him down. We want to do this for him.”

Extra points

Wesley’s players will wear a unique helmet decal to remember Drass this season. The decal is depiction of Drass’ out-stretched right hand, complete with his partial finger in the middle. Drass lost part of that finger as a child. But Drass used to love to make up different stories for losing it. … Knapp is excited with what he’s seen from linebacker Nazir Williams, a transfer from Division I FBS Connecticut. “He is as good as advertised,” said Knapp … Senior offensive lineman Devin Miller is switching to center this fall. That’s a position he played at Cape Henlopen High. … Senior receiver Alex Kemp (Caesar Rodney) was still travelling back from Colorado, where he worked this summer.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

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